In my book, seven friends come over to my home and we have an informal wine tasting. It’s a great excuse to get together and chat about the wines and, as the evening progresses, life in general.
You don’t need to be a wine expert to host a tasting, just as you don’t need to have a doctorate in English literature to organize a book club. In fact, wine tastings work well for book clubs too, especially if you’re discussing a book such as Red, White, and Drunk All Over.
I’ve posted lots of low-cost wines in the Wine Picks section of the site for those who want a shopping list for their tasting.
1. Invite six to twelve friends—a group size that works well both for the conversation and for dividing a bottle of wine into samples.
2. Set the date and time. Around 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. works as you’ll need about two to three hours at most.
3. Select a theme, such as everyone’s most memorable bottle, wines from a certain region such as Australian shiraz or something seasonal, such as champagne during the holidays, sweet wines near Valentine’s Day, and so on.
4. Determine how much wine you’ll serve. A two-ounce pour from eight wines gives everyone a wide sampling without going overboard.
5. Choose finger foods that aren’t too spicy or hot. These might overwhelm the wine.
6. On the evening of the tasting, set out the wine glasses, finger foods, bread, glasses of water, spittoons (mugs are fine) and paper and pens.
7. Serve wine in “flights”: the first four wines, followed by discussion, and then the second four wines, for example. You may want to keep the bottles in brown bags and number them for a “blind tasting.”
8. Sample whites before reds, light wines before full-bodied, and dry before sweet.
9. Encourage everyone to share their thoughts, which can be as simple as whether they like it or what it reminds them of. At the end, have everyone vote on their favorite wines and then reveal their identities.
10. Encourage them to “expectorate” or spit out the wine into their mugs if they choose. Call taxis for those who need one. Set the date for your next tasting.