In part 1 we discussed all of the items that you need in order to host a wine tasting at your home that will be a smash hit. Many of these items you can obtain at the closest liquor store or specialty wine store. It just so happens that Mulberry MAX Liquor Store in Fort Collins has a certified sommelier on staff to help you put together everything you need for your wine tasting!
For part 2, we dive into the structure of the actual event to satisfy your guests and be a true wine tasting host! If you're new to tastings, here is the general structure:
1. Introduce the Wine
Once everyone has settled at the tasting table, take some time to introduce your theme. This gives everyone some context and helps focus the group's attention.
2. Sample #1
Start by introducing and pouring your first wine, then walk the group through the tasting process detailed below. Throughout the tasting, encourage everyone to take notes on their grids, and keep in mind that this is a fun, social occasion, so be sure to engage people in discussion about each wine.
Hold the glass at a 45-degree angle and examine the wine's color and intensity. Is it a deep red, a pale gold? Is the color saturated throughout, or does the wine look watery around the rim/edges?
Place the glass on the table and swirl it to release the wine's aromas, then bring the glass up to your nose and inhale. What does the smell remind you of? Berries? Tobacco? Chocolate? It may be helpful to close your eyes at this point to help focus your attention on what you smell.
Take a sip of wine and swish it around your mouth without swallowing. Try taking in some air to help release the aromas and flavors. Think about what flavors you taste as well as the wine's acidity and sweetness. Also consider the wine's body and texture: Is it light or heavy? Thick or thin?
Swallow the wine and think about its finish and aftertaste. Does the flavor linger (have a "long finish") or disappear quickly? Is the wine one-dimensional or more complex?
Do you like this wine? Try to identify exactly what you like or dislike, as that can help you identify wines you'll enjoy in the future. And, keep in mind that there are no right or wrong answers—it's all a matter of personal preference.
8. Samples #2 to #6
In between each sample, be sure everyone cleanses their palate.
For subsequent wines, you may want to once again lead the group through the formal tasting process—this can be especially helpful for beginner tasters.
9. Final Discussion
Once all the wines have been sampled, lead the group in a discussion about all wines (If you held a blind tasting, this is the time to reveal your bottles.) For fun, have everyone vote for his or her favorite and rank the wines in terms of preference.
While you might think of wine tastings as events that take place at four-star restaurants, you can easily prepare your own wine-tasting party with the help of your nearest liquor store in Fort Collins. Mulberry MAX has an on-staff Certified Sommelier to help you with everything you need.
The first step in planning a wine tasting party is determining the kind of event you want to host. The simplest and easiest option is a stand-alone tasting, which allows participants to focus exclusively on what they are drinking and not fill up on or get too distracted by food. You can also combine a tasting with a dinner, cocktail party, or other gathering. Another option is to serve a light dinner, then follow with a wine tasting. Or, invite everyone over for a tasting of dessert wines followed by cookies, cake, or a dessert of your choosing. Regardless of the style of party, the following guidelines will help you plan a stress-free tasting both you and your guests can enjoy.
When to Host a Wine-Tasting Party
As long as you match your wines to the weather—lighter wines in the summer, heavier varieties in winter—you can host a wine tasting any time of year. In terms of specific days, think about your guests and their drinking habits. Depending on the crowd, you may get more RSVPs for a tasting on a Friday or Saturday, when people can relax and not have to worry about going to work the next day. Keep in mind that if you're not serving food at your tasting, it's wise to pick a time when guests are unlikely to be hungry—just after lunch or dinner is ideal.
Providing a new glass for each wine removes the possibility that flavors from one wine might taint the flavors of the next, but it's not very practical. Using one glass throughout the tasting is fine—just be sure that tasters dump out any extra wine (and do a quick swirl-rinse with water) before moving to the next sample; keep a bucket nearby for dumping. And although different wines beg for different glasses, one basic wineglass works for most tastings. Use a glass that is perfectly clear (so you can see the wine), has a stem (so you don't warm the wine with your fingers), and has a bowl that's deep enough that you can swirl a little. Before the tasting, be sure to thoroughly wash and rinse all wineglasses, making sure there's no soap residue that could affect the tasting. Regardless of which wineglass approach you decide to use, your nearest liquor store in Fort Collins can give you assistance on where to find the proper wine glasses you need for your event.
Water pitcher and glasses
Cool water is essential for cleansing the palate between wines. Be sure each taster has a glass filled with ice water before the tasting starts, and set out a large pitcher for refills.
There are myriad options for corkscrews, but the best one is the one that works for you. Have a backup handy in case your regular one breaks—or you have a lot of wine to open and need an assistant. A foil cutter can also come in handy.
Bucket or large bowl
Arrange one or more buckets or large bowls in the tasting area where guests can pour extra wine. Also offer each guest their own small cup if they prefer not to swallow each wine.
Tasting grids, plus pens and pencils
A tasting grid is a chart that allows tasters to record their impressions of each sample. It's also a bit of a "cheat sheet." Tasting can be intimidating, but breaking the evaluation down into discrete elements and offering some descriptive terms can help get people started.
A "tasting menu" details the wines to be sampled. In addition to the name of each wine, its geographical origin, and vintage, include background information on the wine and where it can be purchased at your nearest liquor store in Fort Collins.
Picking a Theme
One of the most fun aspects of planning a wine tasting is deciding what kind of wine to sample. You might start by deciding if you want red, white, sparkling, or dessert wine. You can sample different wines from one region (Rioja, New Zealand, the Napa Valley, etc.), or taste the same varietal produced in different parts of the world (Cabernet Sauvignon grows in many regions). Regardless of your theme, your nearest liquor store in Fort Collins can help assist you in selecting the perfect bottles of wine for your chosen theme.
Also, think about your guests and how much they know about wine. If you're hosting a group of novice wine drinkers, a more basic tasting such as an introduction to one of the major red wine grapes works best. If your group is more experienced, try experimenting with lesser-known varietals or different vintages of the same wine. Also think about the season: Heavy reds are unlikely to draw crowds on a steamy August evening, but they would be perfect in February.
A Little Research Goes a Long Way
Several days before the tasting, spend time researching your wine and preparing notes so you can introduce the bottles to your guests. If you like, prepare some trivia or fun facts. This will make for a more interesting and educational tasting, as providing some context often helps tasters connect to and remember a wine.
Once you get the bottles home, store them on their side, away from direct light, and at cellar temperature (55°F). If your home is on the warm side, lower your thermostat or place the wine in the basement or on the floor of a dark closet where it's slightly cooler. Also try to keep the temperature consistent and store bottles away from vibration if possible.
Palate cleansers, along with plenty of cool water, keep your taste buds neutral and awake. Your nearest liquor store in Fort Collins will most likely recommend bland crackers or bread (a plain baguette, nothing grainy), which "act like sponges, absorbing any lingering flavors." Avoid anything flavored or overly salty—the point is to refresh the palate for each new wine.
Chill the Wine
In general, white wines are served at 45 to 50°F (10°C) and reds at 55 to 60°F (15°C). Be sure to chill whites (in the refrigerator or in ice) two to three hours in advance. Red wine can be served at room temperature, but if your house is particularly warm, you may want to put the bottle(s) in the fridge for 15 to 20 minutes or just until they are cool to the touch. Red wines should not be served cold, so be sure to take them out of the fridge about one hour prior to pouring.
Check out Part 2 for how to structure your wine tasting!
Editor: Mr. Max
We work, live, breathe and of course drink the beverage world. This is where we nerd out.