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A Modern Wine Tasting Party in Four Easy Steps

An article published by Wine Enthusiast in January 2013 reported that 28% of Americans aged 21-26 drink wine on a daily basis,

Why, then, hasn’t the image of wine tastings evolved beyond the stereotype of a bunch of aged elitists swirling their Bordeaux and espousing the finer qualities of old vine Zi… sorry, I dozed off.

.. It breaks my heart that so many people struggle to see and/or enjoy the convivial and joyous atmosphere that wine tastings should really be all about. Do your part to erase that stigma – ditch the doilies and crystal and throw a party your friends will wish they could remember.

Have a Theme

No, I don’t mean Grease Lightening or Flashback to the ’70’s, so stop panicking. Having a theme to your wine party focuses wide world of wine down into bite-sized chunks that everyone can latch onto without losing the fun factor and feeling like they’re at a lecture. Choose the Piedmont region of Italy, Rieslings in general, or go quirky with a theme that revolves around labels (all wines that have animals in the name, for example) or producers (celebrity vineyards). You’ll be impressed by what a side-by-side comparison of Cabs from different regions teaches you without you even noticing that you’re learning. Plus, themes are super fun, and you get to decorate and dress up, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Inject Some Personality

Nobody knows your friends like you do, and we’re betting that they’re a bunch of characters. With that in mind, you wouldn’t throw a boring birthday party so your wine tasting should be full of life, too. Throw up some decorations, put on some mood-setting music, and if you are the game-playing sort, invest in a couple of the super neat wine-tasting games that are on the market now. Put out several bottles with the labels covered (a simple newspaper wrapping and a sharpie designating Bottle A, Bottle B, etc will be fine) and have everyone blind taste. Depending on the experience level of your crowd, the target answers can be as general (name that varietal) or as specific (vintage, producer, blend percentages) as you like. Here’s another idea – instead of asking people to describe the wines using terms they might not be totally familiar or comfortable with, ask everyone to give each wine the name of a well-known character or actor. Saying a wine is as light and bubble as Cameron Diaz or as big and buff as Chris Evans in Captain America may seem funny at first, but it’s bound to get the conversation started.

Encourage Involvement

You know why potlucks are so popular, generation after generation? Because it splits up the work load and makes every single person attending feel invested in the party’s outcome. Same goes here. Once you’ve decided on a theme, ask everyone to bring an appropriate bottle or some snacks that you can munch as your taste. Don’t worry about proper pairings – the more variety your buffet table has, the more opportunities everyone will have to see what actually tastes good with whatever they’re drinking.

Ditch the Pretension

Nobody comes to a party to be preached to, so even if you are the sommiest of somms and someone is putting ice cubes in their Chablis, please be quiet unless your assistance is requested. I don’t mean to be harsh, it’s just a real downer when somebody is getting excited about what’s in their glass and someone inadvertently makes them feel small. If you’re lucky enough to be the most educated oenophile in the room, just be happy you have the opportunity to expose your pals to even the smallest sliver of your world. Trust me, even White Zin can be a gateway into the wonderful world of wine.

Give Out Presents

Everyone loves presents. You don’t need to get everyone their own case of Riedels, your party favors can be fun and simple. When you send out invitations, include a unique charm that each guest can slip on their goblet’s stem at the party, clearly designating which wine is theirs. Print out tasting cards so everyone can write down what they’re drinking and how they feel about it, so they can buy a bottle of their own in the future. There are tons of great templates online, you just have to do a quick search to find them. Go ultra personal and give each guest a wine key with their name on it – they’re on Etsy for $12.99 a piece. How’s that for memorable?

Above all, parties should be fun, and a wine tasting is nothing but a party with a heavy injection of booze. Be open to suggestions, clear your mind and your palate of pre-conceived notions, and whatever you do, absolutely, positively, no spit buckets.



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About The Author
Alana Luna
Alana is a freelance food and wine writer currently living in Las Vegas, NV. She is a lifelong hospitality enthusiast, having been born into the industry and raised in restaurants (and perhaps the odd bar or two…). Prior to writing full time, Alana worked on the Las Vegas Strip where she was lucky to learn from some of the leading wine professionals in the world while tasting some of the very best bottles wine country (in the broadest sense of the term) has to offer. Above all, she believes in the power of a really good story, and stories involving food and wine are her very favorite tales to tell.

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