Just because rosé season is on its way out doesn’t mean it’s time to stop sipping vino. You already know fall is the perfect time to go wine tasting, but you don’t necessarily have to head out to a winery to do it. In fact, you can host a top-notch tasting party right at home with just a bit of planning.
“Vineyards traditionally start harvesting grapes in August through October and it’s the perfect time to celebrate Mother Nature’s bounty,” says Seattle party planner Jennifer Porter of Satsuma Designs LLC.
Here’s what you need to know for a successful sipping soiree.
Pick a Theme
The best way to keep your tasting from seeming random is to choose a theme for what you serve. You can pick a regional theme, with California wines, U.S. regional wines, or North and South American wines as some options, Porter says. You can also tailor your picks to the time of year or occasion.
“If you’re hosting a fall wine tasting party to celebrate a special occasion such as a wedding shower, anniversary, or birthday, consider creating a theme based on the guest [or guests] of honor,” Porter says. “Where have they traveled? Where are they hosting the wedding and honeymoon? Where did the couple meet? It’s fun to create these extra details that give clarity on what wines to select.”
You can also taste one type of wine, whether a red, white, merlot, blends, or sparkling. “The wine market is so rich with variety it’s fun to taste and discuss the subtle differences,” Porter says.
Buy Enough Wine
How exactly do you make sure you have enough booze on hand for your guests? You’ll have to do some basic math. Standard wine tasting pours are between 1 and 2 ounces, which means that you’ll get about 12-24 tastings for a standard wine bottle, “depending on how generous the pour,” Porter says. She recommends planning for tasting 6-8 varieties, and stocking up on a few popular choices, too.
Pick Some Food Pairings
Now, just because wine is in the spotlight doesn’t mean food should go by the wayside. “Always pair protein with a wine tasting, as you’ll want your guests to fill up a bit on hearty food as they progress through the wine tasting,” Porter says. “For easy snacks, slice cheese, salami, and pair with crackers and sliced fruits. Add some grilled vegetables to round out the offering.”
Have the Right Tools
To help your affair go smoothly, you’ll need a few basics on hand. Have at least three wine bottle openers at the ready so guests can help open bottles, put out red and white wine glasses, and pick out wine charms that can also serve as party favors, Porter says. If using stemless glasses, use tape and a sharpie to make name tags for guests.
“For red wines, use an aerator and decanter,” Porter says. “For white wines, use a cooling container to get the best tasting results.”
She adds, “Give guests the gift of comfort when you share a wine tasting primer print out. Many wine shops have these How To docs and for those new to wine tasting it will enhance their experience.”
Go the Extra Mile
Make your event extra special by setting up some fun games for guests to participate in. “Consider a high-low game where every guest brings an inexpensive bottle and a more expensive one (within a budget) and see if guests can pick the high or low priced wine,” Porter says.
If you’re hosting a party with a regional theme, play some trivia about the locale or culture with your guests, Porter says.
And as always, with any party involving alcohol, have a “get home safely” plan, Porter says. Offer to call guests cabs or an Uber or tap a responsible non-drinking pal to drive guests home.
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