Exploring new wines is best done with friends and family. For those of you who may feel a little low on confidence to host a true wine tasting party --the kind where you talk about the wine in depth, rather than just knocking back the glasses --here are a few tried and true tips.
It's easier than you think.
1. More Not Always Merrier
Keep the group size manageable: a gathering of 10-12 people is ideal. Of course you would like all of your friends to enjoy your first wine party, but be careful. If you'd like your guests (and yourself) to walk away with some new found knowledge, then keep in mind that more people means more distraction.
2. Have the Right Glasses
Have proper glassware. No need for super expensive crystal, but make sure all the glasses match. The idea is for your guests to all experience the same thing. The person drinking from a plastic cup will taste the wine differently than someone having it out of a glass. Whether you are pouring red, white, or even sparkling, use medium to large wine glasses (usually red wine glasses) for everything. This will also allow you to get your nose in there and talk about what you smell. Remember- much, if not all of what you taste derives from what you are smelling in your glass.
Have each guest bring their favorite wine or a wine they have been dying to try. Set a price point. Anything under $25 is a good place to start. Since this is a special occasion, you may want to splurge a little, but resist the urge. If some guests bring less expensive wine and others bring pricier wines, it defeats the purpose of the party --which is about learning.
4. Snacks Are Key
Have snacks available. As the host, you don't have to go crazy. Or ask everyone to bring a dish or cheese that might go well with the wine they plan to bring. Conducting a wine and cheese pairing is a great exercise to find out what flavors work well together--and which do not. Also, have some crackers available, to give everyone's palate a break. And of course, wine has alcohol, so having something to eat is smart anyway.
5. Talk About Taste
Don't be shy about talking about the wine as a group. It's usually less intimidating in a home environment since no one is necessarily "the expert" and the fear of looking foolish is diminished. Talk about what you taste, what you feel when the wine is in your mouth, what you smell before you taste. Although there are specific studied nuances that are present in certain wine, your taste buds are yours exclusively, so feel confident with what you are experiencing in that wine. If you taste cherry, and someone else tastes cinnamon, congratulations, you're both correct.