Whether you’re trying to become a wine pro or simply love drinking wine, hosting a wine tasting party at home can be a fun way to entertain friends while discovering your new favourite wine at the same time. Plus, what other opportunity do you get to pop open 6 different bottles of wine at the same time in the comfort of your own home?
Not sure where to get started? Here’s how to host a wine tasting at home.
1. Pick a theme for your wine tasting party
It’s fine to do a completely random wine tasting with whichever wines you can get your hands on. But having a set theme will bring more focus to your wine tasting party and help you to make more direct comparisons.
Some possible wine tasting theme ideas are:
Variety. Choose your favourite wine variety and discover what it tastes like from different regions. For example, you could compare Pino Noirs from France, California, and New Zealand. Or Merlots from France, Italy, Chile, and Australia.
Region. Another idea is a regional wine tasting, which involves tasting wines from one particular wine region. We may be biased, but we’d suggest organising a Prosecco wine tasting with various wines from northern Italy’s Prosecco region. You might be surprised how much variety in quality and taste there is among Italian Proseccos.
Style. For a broader wine tasting theme, pick a style of wine rather than a variety or region. A question we get asked often is ‘what is the difference between Prosecco and Champagne?‘. And while we could simply describe to you all of the ways in which these two sparkling wines are different, the best way to learn for yourself is with a sparkling wine tasting. Other styles you could consider include dry whites, rosé wines, full-bodied reds, or dessert wines.
Vintage. Choose a wine that you enjoy and try to find it in different vintages. It might be slightly more difficult and more expensive to source wines for this type of wine tasting. But it is extremely interesting to see how a wine’s vintage can impact its flavour.
Some quick ideas for a wine tasting theme:
- Red grape varieties: Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah/Shiraz
- White grape varieties: Chardonnay, Reisling, Sauvignon Blank, Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio
- Wine regions: Prosecco (Italy), Bordeaux (France), Napa Valley (USA), Mendoza (Argentina), Rioja (Spain), Marlborough (New Zealand)
- Wine styles: Sparkling wine, rosé wine, dry white wines, full-bodied reds, dessert wines, fortified wines
- Wine vintages: pick a year, though check your year was a good vintage before you start.
- Wine club mixed cases: some wine clubs offer mixed cases of wine. They may not be perfectly selected for comparing wine but it certainly takes all the stress out of choosing.
- Wine tasting kits: you may be able to find a choice of wine tasting kits online. Also ideal if you want an easy option.
2. Buy Your Wine
What’s an at home wine tasting without wine? You can either supply the wine yourself or get each guest to contribute a bottle or two – depending on how many people are attending. If your guests are bringing wine, make sure to let them know the theme and a general price point. It can be a fun way for your guests to get involved and excited about the evening.
If you’re supplying the wine, there are many ways you can go about choosing your wine. Pick up a few bottles that are on special offer at your supermarket, add in some more expensive wines you’ve been wanting to try, or just go completely pot luck.
Don’t worry if your wine theme is a little bit technical e.g. full-bodied red wines, you can do some research online before you go shopping (or shop online). Otherwise, consider going to your local wine shop and ask the staff for recommendations.
At the end, we have a guide to how much wine you need for a wine tasting.
We also have a few buying guides if your theme if Prosecco or Italian wine:
- How To Choose The Best Prosecco – 10 Top Tips
- Prosecco vs Champagne: What’s The Difference?
- 10 Top Italian Wines You Need To Know
3. Gather your wine tasting supplies
Not everybody has a wine tasting kit on standby at all times – although, this would be a great thing to have! So make sure that you’re ready for your wine tasting party by getting together all of the essentials.
What you need for a wine tasting party at home:
Wine glasses. Make sure you have the correct wine glasses for the wines you are tasting. You’ll need at least one wine glass per person, but if you have enough for 2-3 glasses each then even better. It’s helpful to taste the wines simultaneously. If you’re doing a full tasting of 6 wines and don’t have enough glasses for 6 per guest (who does?), no need to rinse the glasses between wines. In fact, rinsing with water can dilute your tasting so just empty the glass and add the next wine (ideally of the same colour).
Spit bucket. If you’re anything like us, you’ll probably just drink all of the wine. However, some people do prefer to spit or pour any unwanted wine into a bucket during wine tastings. It doesn’t need to be a special spitoon, but something with opaque with high sides is more appealing (nobody wants to see the mixed wine dregs). A Champagne bucket works well if you can bring yourself to use it as a spit bucket.
Palate cleansers. Supply some plain crackers or light bread for guests to cleanse their palate in between each wine. Glasses of water should also be provided as a palate cleanser.
Pens and paper. Make sure you have somewhere to record your comparisons and notes. You could even print out a wine tasting comparison sheet (or create your own) to help guide your tasting.
Decanter, carafe, corkscrew, cooler etc. Depending on the styles of wine you’re tasting, make sure that you have the necessary products for opening and serving your wine.
4. Tips for setting up your wine tasting at home
Organising your first-ever hosted tasting party can feel a little overwhelming. But as long as you have all of the essentials, a rough structure for the tasting, and lots of great wine to try, it’s sure to be a hit.
Make sure that your wine tasting runs smoothly with these handy tips:
Use a white table cloth. Don’t go too frilly on the table decorations. A plain white table cloth will provide the best background for seeing the colours of the wine – an important aspect of tasting. On the same note, you should also make sure that your wine glasses are completely clear (not tinted) so that you can properly see the wine.
Make sure there’s adequate lighting. Try to choose the lightest room in your home to host your wine tasting party. This could be either natural or artificial light. Much like the plain backdrop, good lighting helps you better see the colours of the wine.
Avoid strong scents. While it might be tempting to set the ambience for your wine tasting party with some beautiful flowers or scented candles, strong smells can overshadow the aroma and taste of the wine. Make sure that the room is clean, fresh and free from strong odours. No strong pasta sauces simmering in the background, sadly.
Make sure you have the right amount of wine. This one is simple really; the more people at your wine tasting, the more of each wine you’ll need. Wine tastings work better in smaller intimate groups. If there are 6-10 people, you’ll only need one bottle of each wine that you’re tasting. But if you’re inviting a larger group, you may need duplicates. We have full details below on how to calculate how much wine you will need for your tasting.
Prepare the wine in advance. When organizing a wine tasting party at home, one thing that people often forget to do is properly prepare the wine. Make sure that your wines are chilled (or warmed) to the right temperature and that young high-tannin red wines are left to breathe for at least 30 minutes before the tasting. You may also want to use decanters and carafes to serve your wine.
5. Pairing your wines with food
During the initial tasting of each wine, stick to palate cleansers such as bland crackers and bread. You don’t want any strong flavours to overpower the tasting notes of the wines. Then, later on, you can impress your guests and add another layer to your tasting by pairing your wines with food.
Do your food pairings research in advance and find out which foods and flavours pair well with the wines you’ve chosen. Cheeses, cured meats, crisps and nuts are snacks that work well with many different wines. Or get a little more creative by making your own pairing appetizers. Here’s our guide to food and wine pairings for Prosecco.
6. Make it a blind wine tasting party
Another fun way to mix up your wine tasting party at home is by turning it into a blind tasting. And no, that doesn’t mean your guests are blindfolded.
How to host a blind wine tasting party at home: Pour your wines into decanters or carafes (make sure to discreetly label which is which so that you don’t forget) or wrap the bottles in tinfoil, paper bags or old news or wrapping paper. You can then get your guests to taste the wines objectively without knowing which they are.
A blind tasting is a great way to enhance your senses, learn about your palate, and identify similarities and differences between different wines.
7. Relax and enjoy
Wine tasting events can be quite formal but an at home wine tasting should be a fun and relaxed occasion. While some simple tips like chilling the wine and using decanters can enhance the tasting experience, it doesn’t need to be all that precise. So long as there is good company, good wine and good food, you don’t need much else.
How much wine do you need for a wine tasting?
A typical wine serving for a wine tasting is 60ml. Standard wine bottles contain 750ml, which gives you 12 tasting servings per bottle (with a little left for inevitable spills). That means you can serve up to 12 guests per wine bottle.
Meanwhile, 6 bottles of wine of different types is a good number for an at home wine tasting. Don’t worry, 6 wine types at 60ml per tasting is less than the equivalent of 3 small (125ml) glasses of wine per person. So, your guests shouldn’t end up too sloshed, and they may not finish each tasting anyway. Of course, if your friends are of the ‘thirsty’ variety, there should be plenty to go around.
Got a smaller group and worried you’ll have too much wine left over? You can either offer each guest a bottle or two to take home with them or simply reduce the tastings to fewer bottles – 4 types should be enough to make comparisons or even 3 if you choose sufficiently different wines. Alternatively, some wines are available in half bottles.
If you do expect to have wine left over, it pays to invest in good wine stoppers. They help to preserve your wine and with a good stopper any remaining wins should keep for up to 5 days (2-3 for sparkling wine).
That’s our guide to how to host a wine tasting at home. Got any questions? Let us know in the comments below.
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- There’s a Prosecco Vending Machine in Italy – Here’s How To Visit