- Glasses: Another vital necessity are the shape and style of glasses to use for your tasting. They come in all shapes, sizes, styles and price points. You should have at least one per guest with a few extra on hand in case of breakage, chips, cracks or unexpected arrivals. You can get as fancy as you please or downright simple in your selection of stemware. But please, no plastic or Styrofoam. It is recommended the vessels be sufficient enough in size to allow for swirling to aerate the wine, plus room to put your nose into the glass to maximize optimal smelling potential. If necessary, educate your guests to the benefits of the “Swirl, Sniff and Taste” technique.
- Dump Bucket: You should always consider having a spit bucket or a dumping container of any sort. This will give the opportunity to those who may choose to taste and spit or to discard any unwanted wine left in their glass. Many professionals who taste a large number of wines at a tasting prefer the taste and spit method. This allows for more sampling without consuming a large amount of alcohol in a short period of time.
- Food: Lastly, no tasting is complete without any serving of food. Typical fare include an assortment of appetizers, cheeses, meats, breads or crackers that are sure to please any palate. If you are doing a wine themed dinner, where a different wine is paired with a different entree, you are well ahead of the game. But make sure to choose your selections carefully. You do not want to serve foods that will overpower, interfere or disrupt the taste of your wines. Certain sauces, salts and distinct odors from food preparation can put a severe damper on one’s ability to properly evaluate a wine. Etiquette also suggests eliminating the wearing of perfume or cologne to any tasting. They have the ability to greatly hamper your key senses, and even worse, affect those around you as well. Trust me, I see it happen all the time at tastings and it is quite a turn off.
Once your wines have been selected and your theme in place, you as host should have some knowledge of what is being presented. Knowledge is always key, especially if your guests have any questions about the wine, the vintage, the producer or any key component regarding that particular selection. You can provide printed information about your selections as well as having a tasting evaluation sheet. With the different type of fruit components, spice nuances and other descriptive, this information may help guide them to pick out any number of various characteristics in a particular wine.
There are a few other small items you may want to address prior to your tasting. It should be necessary to have some bottled water or a pitcher of so nearby. Keeping hydrated while drinking any alcohol is a wise and inexpensive component to any tasting. Water, as opposed to crackers or other food, is the best way to cleanse your palate between tastes. It also allows you to rinse your glass of any unwanted sediment or to clean your bowl when switching from whites to reds.
It is advisable to keep a few small towels handy in case of unwanted spills, drips or unfortunate breakage. Better to be safe than sorry.
If you and your guests are wine tasting aficionados, here is a couple fun games to play to test, educate and improve your wine tasting professionalism. The first, you will need 2 different wines and 3 glasses. Pour the first wine into 2 of the glasses and the second wine into the 3rd glass. Be sure to remember which wines are in which glasses. The object is to see if you are able to match the same wine that was poured into the first 2 glasses. You can also do this test using 4 glasses. Simply pour each wine into 2 different glasses and see if you are able to pair up the same wine.
With all the information given, you are well on your way to hosting a fun and successful wine tasting experience. If you still are not comfortable with hosting such an event, there are many wine folks in the trade who would be happy to host your event. Check with your local wine merchant or research online for those individuals who host such events. Be sure to ask every question possible of what they will supply, what they will do and how much they charge for their service.
Have a great tasting experience…… (and don’t forget to invite me) Cheers.