Wine Tasting Party

You don't have to be a wine connoisseur to host a splendid, fun and educational wine tasting party. This is a great way to socialize with your family, friends and co-workers and learn a little about wine at the same time. Hosting a wine tasting party is an excellent way to expand your taste buds, find great inexpensive wines that you enjoy and increase your knowledge of wine varieties.

You can focus your wine tasting party on a particular style or theme that may compliment the dinner you will be serving later in the evening. For example, if you intend on serving high acid foods like salads with balsamic vinaigrette dressing ask your guests to bring higher in acid wines such as sauvignon blanc that is under $10. Setting a price limit helps prevent that one guest from trying to buy the best wine by bringing the most expensive wine. Follow these simple steps for each bottle to do the tasting:

1. Place each bottle of wine in a brown bag and number the bag so the guests cannot see the label. For a more classy approach, consider using decorative wine bags to cover the bottles.

2. Prepare your table setting with glasses, crackers and some water for each guest. Crackers or bread can be used, but they should be of a neutral flavor. Stay away from flavored crackers so you can truly clear the palette. Crackers and cheese may seem like a great idea, but it should be avoided because the cheese will actually influence the flavors of the wine. If your guests may be hungry, a nice loaf of French bread can be used instead of crackers.

3. Be sure to have a separate container for those guests who want to pour out the excess wine. Remember, this is about fun, education and friendship. Getting intoxicated is not the objective here and will most certainly deaden your taste buds.

4. Open the first bottle of wine and fill the glass only about 20%. For red wines, you may want the wine to breathe somewhat by pouring off about ½ glass from each bottle. For white and blush style wines you may want to chill slightly before serving.

5. Sample the wine and rate each wine according to the following three senses: sight, smell and taste. You may find that you like the look of one wine over another, but prefer the aroma of another. You may also find one wine with a wonderful aroma, but it may be too bitter for your liking.

- Sight: Examine the wine and make notes about the color, clarity and transparency of the wine. Rank the color of the wine on a scale of 1 to 10 based on your personal fondness.

- Smell: Swirl the wine around in the glass to help awaken the aromas and take a good sniff of the bouquet and aroma. Rank the wine on a scale of 1 to 10 based on your personal preferences.

- Taste: Take a small sip and roll the wine over your tongue inhaling slightly to release the full flavors. Different parts of the tongue register different tastes so be sure to roll the wine around in your mouth. Try to focus on the characteristics of the wine such as the body, acidity, tannin (bitterness), sweetness and fruitiness of the wine. Also be sure to focus on the aftertaste of the wine. Again, make notes on the flavors and subtleties of the wine and rate it on a scale of 1 to 10 based on your personal preferences.

6. Once all of your guests have finished tasting the wine be sure to clean your glass or start with a fresh one. Also be sure each guest cleanses their pallet by eating a small cracker and/or drinking a small amount of water.

After you have cycled through all of the wines, have each guests finalize their notes and identify their most and least favorite wine for each of the three senses: sight, smell and taste. Also have each individual pick their overall favorite and least favorite wine. Begin comparing notes for each of the wines. Once the favorites are identified by each individual, remove the bags from the wine bottles to identify the winners and losers. If serving a meal afterwards, offer your guests some of the wine just sampled with the meal. This will further expand on the tasting experience as foods are introduced to complement the wines. This can be a fun and exciting way to host a wine tasting party in your home with some of your friends.

Of course, please drink responsibly and select designated drivers to ensure the safety of your guests.

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