Design Your Own Wine Tasting Party

Tasting whites. | Lou Phillips

It is safe to say most wine lovers imbibe for shear enjoyment, whether to refresh in summer, to fortify in winter — like in the 2018-19 epic one — or to unwind from life’s challenges. Enjoyment is Job 1.

At the other end of the spectrum are we wine pros, who use a specified process of technical tasting to determine the quality of wines we will be offering to customers, of course, to be able to determine that each bottle served is not flawed. If you have observed the media attention directed at the world of sommeliers, you know that while technical tasting can be fun, it can turn into a deeper dive than most want to tackle.

For the average wine lover who likes to experience his or her tasting on a more intellectual level, I will describe a tasting procedure that has proven effective and mind expanding. I have also included an image of a tasting guide that I developed; you can photograph and print copies for a tasting party of your own. Technical stuff aside, the real goal is to share a fun, learning wine experience with friends.

So here we go. Step 1 and 2 are natural partners: Gather some wine and some friends. Which friends you choose is up to you but let me help with Step 1.

Pick a theme for the wines; a good place to start is iconic whites and reds. Three wines are a good number for a tasting. If the weather is warm, try Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris/Grigio and a bone-dry Riesling for whites. Summertime reds could be a Gamay — think Beaujolais or a varietally labelled Gamay from France’s Loire Valley — a light cool-climate Pinot Noir and a Dolcetto from Italy.

Tasting reds. | Lou Phillips

In cold weather, good whites for your tasting would be Chardonnays, Gewürztraminers and a rich Rhône blend. Cold weather reds might include a big Cabernet Sauvignon, a Zinfandel and a New-World Syrah.

An alternate theme could be to use wines made from a specific grape with examples from diverse regions. This variation would allow you to experience the variety of climates, clones and wine-making philosophies of different regions expressed from the same wine grape.

Try a traditional blind tasting, where you place the bottles in bags and only you will know what the wines are; use the wine-tasting chart because it gives some structure and stimulates interaction.

Tasting guide. | Lou Phillips

Step 3 is the tasting party. So, get your wines together, gather up your crew, hand out the tasting guides and pop some bottles open.

By the way, I am available to set up and run a tasting party for you. | (775) 544-3435, [email protected]