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party pointers

Don't put a damper on your big event by forgetting something simple. Use these tips to safeguard your wine tasting:

Have Enough Wine

Basically, the number of wines you want to try will determine the number of bottles to buy—a two ounce pour per glass for eight guests will kick a little more than half a bottle (standard size is about 25 ounces). One bottle per person will be enough to keep the party going once the official tasting is over.

Take Notes

Have a stack of note cards available so that guests can record their own impressions of the wine. Include color, aroma, taste, length, and finish.

Keep Palates Clean

Be sure to set out pitchers or bottles of water and a plate of dry crackers or unflavored bread so that guests can cleanse their palates between each quaff.

Surprise Guest

You could do a blind tasting by covering each wine bottle in brown paper and color-coding each one. When you are done tasting all of the wines, rip off the paper for the big reveal.

Serve With Style

Take this opportunity to test out your new serving platters and olive boats. Those special butter knives you registered for can serve as cheese spreaders; use small bread-and-butter plates for passing appetizers.

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Postwedding Festivities: How to Host a Wine-Tasting Party

Break out the new wineglasses and pop the cork. Hosting a wine tasting party at home is easier than you think. Just see, swirl, sniff, and sip.

Photo: Jim Franco

Our generation loves to drink wine. So much so that we now consume more wine (particularly red wine) than our parents. Crazy, right? Combine that with a flair for entertaining and you've got the perfect party: an at-home wine tasting. It requires practically no work at all—and gives you the chance to break out your fresh-from-the-registry wineglasses. Just choose the type of wine you want to explore, invite over six to eight friends, and follow this party plan.


Hold your glass by the stem. If you hold a glass by its bowl, you risk raising the wine's temperature, which will alter its taste as well (especially with white wine)

Choose the Wine

To keep your tasting balanced yet fairly diverse, choose a variety of wine within a specific category. This will also prove to be educational, which is always fun (seriously) as you'll be able to sample several wines of the same caliber. If you want to do all white wines, focus on a particular country—say, Italy, Australia, or Chile. Or you can combine the country and grape and serve all French chardonnays or California merlots. Follow this formula to create a perfect selection:

The Formula
Choose a Color
Mix of Reds & Whites
Choose One Consistency Trait
The same country
The same grape
The Same Year

Knot Tasting Tip: Good wine does not always equal expensive wine. There are plenty of great wines under $15. Stick within a price range so that each wine you taste will have similar qualities. Then surprise the group with one that's expensive. See if your guests can figure out which one it is.

Plan the Menu

If you're hosting a formal party, it's best to serve food following the
official wine-tasting portion of the evening, as some foods may alter the wine's taste. If you're going casual cocktail style, have lite bites out as everyone sips. We love a menu of simple store-bought finger foods and appetizers for this kind of party. Try these culinary combos:

The Formula
Salty Snacks
Spanish olives and almonds
Smoked Gouda, Brie and Chorizo
Mini white cheese pizzas
Sweet Endings
Bittersweet Chocolate-dipped apricots
Sugar Cookies

Knot Tasting Tip: Put gourmet breadsticks in a simple drinking glass for a chic palate cleanser.

The Setup

Pour each guest a flight of wine. Depending on the number of bottles you have, a flight usually consists of four to six wines. If you have eight wines, you can do two flights. You'll want to use clear glass wineglasses (clear so you can examine the color of the wine), and line up the wine-filled glasses from light to dark. And, make sure your wines are warm or cool enough to taste.

Wine Temperature
White = 50 degrees (let a prechilled bottle sit out for 30 minutes)
Red = 65 degrees (just pop it in the fridge for 30 minutes)

Start the Tasting

Now for the fun part! The actual tasting can be broken down into four simple steps:

See: Check out the color of the wine and compare its color to the
others in your flight. Is it dark? Light? Translucent?
Swirl: Hold your glass by the stem and gently give it a swirl. This will allow the wine's aroma to open up.
Sniff: Put your nose into the glass and take a big sniff. Take note of what you smell: Toffee? Herbs? Cherry?
Sip: Take a reasonably sized gulp and hold it for just a bit, swishing it around to coat the inside of your mouth, then swallow. Do you taste more than you smell? Does the flavor change at all? How does it feel inside your mouth? Get a conversation going by asking everyone what they like or don't like about the wine. Once you're done, invite everyone to keep drinking their favorite!

--Christa Vagnozzi

Special thanks to Marian Jansen op de Haar, director of wine for Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar; and Leslie Sbrocco, author of The Simple & Savvy Wine Guide

See More: Rehearsals + Brunches