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Host Your Own Winetasting Party
How to choose the wine
For intensive depth, you can choose a single variety of wines, such as Chianti or Cabernet Sauvignon. Serve several different brands to determine which will please the individual. You can suggest wines from a single region (Bordeaux, Piedmont, Napa Valley) to determine what they have in common. You can stay with the wines of one country or assorted vintages of one wine. Your local retailer will be glad to assist you in choosing your selections.
What kind of glasses should I use?
Ideally, you should use glass stemware, if not the traditional crystal red-wine and white-wine goblets, then at least use the all-purpose kind: large, clear, tapered glasses of about 8 oz., each, with a long stem. If your tasting is small, rent, buy, or borrow glasses like this. There is simply no better utensil for tasting wine. Should you find yourself with a combination of small and large glasses, use the smaller glasses for the white wines and save the larger glasses for the hearty reds.
How many glasses will I need?
You can provide a fresh glass for each guest for each wine (6 wines x 12 guests = 72 glasses). You can provide one white wine glass and one red wine glass per guest. You can provide only one glass per guest. Label each glass with the guest’s name to avoid confusion).
How much wine do I need?
For each wine you serve, buy one full-sized (25 oz/750 ml) bottle for each eight to ten guests. This will allow sufficient quantity for every person to try a taste of each wine. Plan to serve five or six different wines at your tasting. Begin the tasting with an aperitif so that early arrivals have something to do. During this time such things as white wine, kir or dry sherry should be available.
What kinds of food should I serve?
Cheese is the perfect complement to wine. Just arrange two or three different types on a couple of cheese boards or plates and let your guests carve their own. Or, cut the cheese in cubes ahead of time and serve it on toothpicks, if you want to limit the amount your guests will eat. Along with the cheese, serve breadsticks, unsalted matzos, water crackers, melba toast, or pieces of bread.
Blandness is the key. In selecting the cheese, choose mild-flavored varieties such as Gouda, Muenster, Bel Paese, Brie, Fontina, or Mozzarella. For a more elaborate event, prepare some hors d’oeuvres, but don’t bring them out until everyone has had a chance to taste every wine first.
What about serving the wines?
The most practical method is to let your guests pour their own wine. Set up a buffet table for all the wines and the glasses, and include a little food.
Arrange the wines in the order you feel your guests should taste them. This means whites before reds; reds before dessert wines; light bodied wines before more robust wines of the same vintage; dry wines before sweet wines.
Collect the wines a few days ahead of time and rest them by standing them upright.
One of the tricks in learning about wine is to write down your impression of each wine as soon as you taste it, because you will never remember it any other way. So, provide your guests with pencils and paper, or maybe even a photocopied list of all the wines in order, with space for their comments.
Give your guests some information about the wines they are tasting. Write down short descriptions of the wines on index cards and place them in front of each bottle on the tasting table.
How to taste the wine
Use your three senses—sight, smell, and taste—to study each wine carefully; determine its characteristics; and decide whether it appeals to you.