With the Holidays now behind us and with the Winter season settled in, what more is there to do than to count the days until Punxsutawney Phil sees his own shadow? With plenty of time until the Spring thaw, how about hosting your very own wine tasting event.

What a better way to thin out your cellar to help make room for all those purchases and gifts you received during the Christmas season. I can think of no warmer welcome on a cold evening than to spend time with family and friends with some great bottles of wine. Don’t know where to start? Don’t know what to plan? We here at Winetime, who over the years have hosted tastings for as little as 6 people and for as many as 400, we offer a few helpful hints and suggestions on just how to get the ball rolling.

Technically, all you really need for a tasting are people, wine and some glasses. But if you’d like your affair to be a bit more formal, you will need to address a few simple essentials to help you properly prepare for your function. Here is a small checklist to help you get under way.

Your Guest List: First to consider is the number of guests you plan on inviting to your tasting. Be it a few couples or a larger gathering, this will determine how many bottles of wine may be required. Whether it be 3 wines or 6 wines, 4 to 12 guests, having enough room to accommodate your party guests is key.

  • Type of Tasting: There are quite a few different manners in which to host your tasting but here are the 2 to consider. Your first option can be a Stand Up affair. A stand up tasting tends to be more informal, entertaining and laid back. Wines are displayed on a table with either the host pouring sample tastes or letting guests do the honors. In this form, guests are free to roam, taste, discuss and evaluate. Another option is a Sit Down tasting. Being more formal and a bit more serious in nature, this method leans more toward the educational side of wine. This format gives you a better way to compare, with 2 or more wines of the same varietal, from different producers or a different country to choose from. Explanations, facts, figures and other information should be passed along during this type of tasting.
  • Theme: If by the hosts choosing, a theme tasting is always interesting. Choices abound for you in this category where range has no boundaries. You can sample only red wine, only white, only sparkling or any combination of all. You can choose to sample a certain varietal such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc or Champagne. You can also choose tasting wines from the Old World (France, Italy, Spain), New World (United States, Australia, Canada) or even things considered out of this world. You can choose all wines made by the same producer. Wines that are made from a single vineyard. You can select wines from a certain region from around the world. Be it New Zealand, France, Italy, Spain or Chile, your options are seemingly endless. You may also choose to do it by vintage. Select a certain year, say 2015, and present all the wines from that particular vintage. You can also do it according to price range. Choose any number of wines that range from $10 to $20 or $50 to $100. You can also mix and match any of the options above as your theme.
  • Blind Tasting: You can also initiate what is called a blind tasting. This is where all the bottles to be tasted are completely covered using a paper bag, foil, or decanted. Numbered by the host, it is he who is the only one who knows their true identity. This is done to hide the name of the producer, its vintage, its varietal and its possible price. Even by the savviest of tasters, any number of these factors may detract from an impartial opinion or influence your rating if known ahead of time. It is a fun and entertaining way to guess what you are actually tasting, and in the end, the fairest mode to give an honest assessment.
  • The Wines. If you as host are providing all the wines to be tasted, please inform your guests of this gesture. If guests are also bringing bottles to your tasting, advise them well in advance if your tasting has a theme and if there is any price range to adhere to.
  • How Many Wines: The number of wine required for your tasting depends on personal preference. As a rule, tasting pours are usually 1 to 2 ounces in size, just the right amount to evaluate a particular wine. Remember, this is a tasting, not a drinkfest. You can always opt to go back to a certain wine if you care to sample it a second time. A normal 750ml bottle contains 25 ounces. With just the right size pour, you should be able to get at least 12 or more pours per bottle. Within this theory, one bottle will cover at least 12 people. If more than 12 guests are in attendance, a second bottle will be necessary. If you plan on drinking more wine after the initial tasting is complete, have one or more spare bottles if necessary.
  • Wine Prep: If older vintages are being served, or younger wines that may need to time to open up, you may want to decant and or aerate your choices before your guests arrive. If you want to present and pour your wine from the same bottle from which they came, simply funnel the decanted wine back into the bottle and pour as usual.
  • End of Part 1.

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