How to host a wine tasting party at home: tips for picking out wines, wine party themes, food to serve, and how to have fun learning about new wines with friends! This post is brought to you by Clos Du Val Winery.
When I first moved to California, I couldn’t help but become immersed in the wine culture, with Napa and Sonoma valleys just a short drive away. But what really catapulted my understanding of wine are wine tastings, and I will never forget the first wine tasting party my husband and I attended a few months after getting settled.
It was an elegant, intimate evening with new friends, and that evening, the focus was on Rieslings. We had the fortune of being guided through the tasting by a sommelier, and that was my first exposure to terms like tasting flights (a selection of wines presented to sample, compare and contrast), acidity, and residual sugar.
A wine tasting is fun and cozy, and can be so very educational. Over the years, I’ve had the fortune to enjoy incredible wine tastings, but the most memorable are the ones at home. The beauty of a wine tasting party at home is that anyone can enjoy it, from novices to experts! And in today’s post, I’ll show you how to host a wine tasting party at home!
HOW TO HOST A WINE TASTING PARTY
If you ever feel overwhelmed by wine, fear not! Everyone can host a successful wine tasting party, and you don’t need a sommelier to guide you. Not only is it a simple way to entertain, but it’s also a fun way to learn about new wines with good friends! Here are my tips.
HOW DO I SELECT WINE FOR A WINE TASTING PARTY?
PICK A WINE THEME
There are so many wines to taste, so I recommend picking a theme to help you narrow down your focus! Here are some of my favorite wine tasting themes:
- Wines from the same winery. Serve a flight of wines from the same winery! For the party I hosted for this post, I served wines from Clos Du Val Winery in Napa Valley. It’s a wonderful way to showcase the different varietals from one producer; start with white wines, such as their crisp and elegant Estate Chardonnay, work your way through to the velvety Estate Pinot Noir, and end with the most robust wine, like the spicy and jammy Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.
- Wines from the same region. Similarly, you could serve a variety of wines from the same region! It’s a great way to explore the nuances of terroir. If you love the wines from California’s Central Coast, you can cast a wider net and serve wines just from that region. This works especially well when it comes to wines from Europe, which is often named for the region the grapes are grown rather than the grape variety. For example, if you love Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines (CDPs), you can do a CDP tasting of these wines grown in this part of France.
- Wines of the same varietal. It’s also fun to zero in on a single varietal for tastings. Love champagne? Do a champagne tasting! Love rosés? Do an all rosé wine tasting! Want to do a dessert wine tasting? Why not? This would be a delicious way to end a dinner party!
- Old World vs. New World. Compare and contrast wines from Europe to North American wines!
- Vertical wine tasting. This is one of my favorite kinds of wine tastings. A vertical wine tasting is a flight of the same wine of different vintages, which allows you to appreciate the wine as it ages and matures, as well as any nuances year over year. A vertical tasting is harder to pull off, however, unless you have an extensive wine collection that you have been storing for many years. But if you can ever do it, I highly, highly recommend it. It’s so educational!
- Blind tasting. Blind tastings are super fun because it really challenges the taster to use their brain and appreciate the wines without any bias. It’s usually easiest to do a blind tasting of the same varietal. To do a blind tasting wine party, wrap each bottle of wine (e.g. use a brown paper bag, butcher paper, wrapping paper, or even aluminum foil) and number each one. As you taste your way through the flight of wines, each guest can guess the wines!
- Wines of a certain price point. Another option is to challenge your guests by selecting wines of a similar price point. Have some guests who feel like “cheaper” wines aren’t any good? They might be surprised as they taste their way through $15 bottles! Feeling luxurious? Go the opposite direction and splurge!
- Chocolate wine tasting. Everyone loves wine, yes? And everyone loves chocolate, right? One of my favorite tastings pairs chocolate and wine together. Gather a variety of good quality chocolates and see how, for example, a piece of chocolate with pineapple bits tastes with Chardonnay! So good.
- Potluck bottle tasting. Everyone’s got a bottle of wine at home, right? A potluck is a fun way to take the stress of selecting wines off your shoulders — each guest can bring a varietal (make sure there’s no overlap) and you’ve got an instant tasting!
HOW MUCH WINE TO SERVE AT A WINE TASTING PARTY?
In general, expect a 2-ounce pour per serving (a tasting pour is half a regular serving) — this means that a bottle of wine contains about 10-12 tasting servings. For a flight of 5-6 wines, 1 bottle of each wine should be enough for up to 10 guests.
WHAT KIND OF FOOD SHOULD I SERVE AT A WINE TASTING PARTY?
It’s hard not to think about wine without thinking of cheese, so I love the idea of creating the ultimate cheeseboard to serve a wine tasting party. Simple appetizers are also wonderful – the beauty of a wine tasting party is it’s a stress-free way to entertain, so keep it easy!
To create a cheeseboard, you can create one large cheeseboard or use a runner down the center of the table; kraft paper or chalk paper is a nice option for labeling wines and cheeses. Fill the cheeseboard with a variety of small bites that offer something salty, savory, and sweet flavors:
- variety of cheese: serve 3-5 cheeses and include some mild, hard, creamy, and robust options.
- dried fruit
- fresh fruit
- fresh vegetables
- crackers and bread
- jellies, such as quince paste
If you are up to cooking, you could serve a variety of appetizers! Here are some options:
- Apple Cheddar Gougères with Crispy Prosciutto
- Burrata with Heirloom Tomatoes
- Burrata with Stone Fruit
- Chickpea Crab Cakes
- Sweet Potato Chips with Whipped Goat Cheese and Caviar
- Cranberry Pomegranate Baked Brie
- Caramelized Onion, Feta & Serrano Ham Flatbread
- Savory Scones with Gruyere, Prosciutto and Green Onion
- Blueberry, Feta and Honey-Caramelized Onion Naan Pizza
- Fig, Honey and Goat Cheese Galette
WINE TASTING PARTY TIPS
Follow these tips to make your wine tasting party at home a success!
- Don’t overwhelm the palate. A selection of 5-6 wines is plenty.
- When serving wines of different varietals, always start with the lightest white wines and end with the heaviest, most robust red: sparkling first, followed by dry whites, medium whites, rosés, medium reds, and heavier reds.
- Likewise, order the food from light to heavy as you progress through the wines. That said, it’s also fun to experiment and see what happens when you serve a pungent blue cheese (often paired with a full-bodied red wine) with a medium-bodied Chardonnay.
- Pour 2 ounces of wine per glass and be sure the wine is served at the proper temperature. For sparkling wine, keep it chilled and in ice before serving. White wines should be served at 45-50°F. Red wines should be served at 62-68°F.
- If necessary, open any red wines in advance and decant before your guests arrive.
- If you have enough specific wine glasses, that is wonderful, but if not, don’t worry! Using the same wine glass is fine, just be sure to start with your white wines.
- Offer a way for guests to mark their wine glasses: storebought wine glass labels, glass markers, or homemade tags are great options.
- Have a bucket available so guests can dump out wine between tastings.
- Have a pitcher of water available. This is helpful for cleansing the palette, rinsing out glasses between tastings, and of course, staying hydrated!
- Forgo scented candles or overly perfumed flowers that may interfere with a tasting.
Last but not least: do be sure to drink responsibly and don’t let your guests drink and drive. Encourage your guests to designate a driver or simply call an Uber to get home safely.
Disclosure: This post was created in partnership with Clos Du Val Winery. Thank you for supporting brands that matter to me; sponsored posts such as this help behind the scenes at Kitchen Confidante. All opinions in this post are, as always, my own.
How to Host a Wine Tasting Party
Pick a Wine Tasting Theme
- Wines from the same winery
- Wines from the same region
- Wines of the same varietal
- Old World vs. New World
- Vertical wine tasting (same wines, consecutive vintages)
- Blind tasting
- Wines of a certain price point (e.g. budget wines)
- Chocolate pairing
- Potluck bottle
How Much Wine to Serve
- In general, expect a 2-ounce pour per serving (a tasting pour is half a regular serving) -- this means that a bottle of wine contains about 10-12 tasting servings. For a flight of 5-6 wines, 1 bottle of each wine should be enough for up to 10 guests.
Food to Serve
- A cheese board with a variety of cheese, small bites, fresh fruit, and fresh vegetables.
- Small and easy appetizers; can be store-bought or homemade.
- A selection of sweets to end the evening. Chocolate is always a good choice and surprising pairing with wine.
- Offer guests a spit cup/bucket to pour out any unwanted wine.
- Never drink and drive. Be sure your guests have a designated driver or call an Uber/car service to return home.