I find myself slightly envious of those who live downtown, surrounded by an endless supply of restaurants, patios, and other potential dining opportunities. Need a glass of wine? Just text a friend and hook-up in, say 20 minutes at the bistro around the corner. On occasion though, even these folks ask themselves: What would it take to host a wine tasting in my own home?
I’ll let you in on a little secret; it’s not that difficult. Let me give you a few pointers, but first, some background: I don’t live downtown. In fact, I’m so far removed from the concrete jungle that modern amenities like fibre optic phone lines and natural gas are a figment of my imagination. But rather than make the trek southbound to the urban sprawl for a regular dose of the wine tasting experience, I took it upon myself to recreate the same concept closer to home. I call it North of 9 Fine Wine.
Hosting a wine tasting in your own home or at a local restaurant does involve some preparation and planning. To simplify the process, I’ll break the necessary considerations down as a step-by-step checklist to ensure that we cover all the bases.
- Choose a style of wine or a region that you wish to profile
- Pick a theme: stand-up and mingle or sit-down and focused
- How many people will attend? ____
- 1 standard bottle will serve 12 people a 2-ounce pour
- Food should always be available when alcohol is served (at the very least, a sliced baguette)
- Consider the legalities and liquor laws in your area
- Select 4 to 6 different labels to represent your theme
- Consider food pairings to compliment your wine choices
- If ranking the wines, provide grading sheets and pencils
- Select your stemware (something large enough to swirl but not too cumbersome to handle).
7 oz. / 200 mL ISO tasting glasses cost ~ $4 each
- Consider separate glasses for each wine or one glass with a rinse station
- Provide wine charms if using one glass per person or use a paint marker to write each person’s name on the base of their glass
- Labelled placemats will help keep multiple glasses organized
- Spittoons should be made available as an option
- Whites and sparkling wines may require ice buckets for chilling
- Provide drinking water in a separate glass or bottle
- Have a plan if someone has too much to drink i.e. a key bowl, taxi phone#
- Know your material
- As your guests arrive, consider serving a glass of sparkling wine. The bubbly will give them something to discuss while you fine tune last minute details.
- Consider your crowd and set the tone: fun/informative or wine snobbery (there is a place for each)
- Reinforce the need to consume responsibly before you begin
- Explain the basics (not everyone will be comfortable with the concept)
- Taste in order of dry to sweet and light to full bodied
- Consider the use of props such as decanters, various corkscrews, maps and literature related to your subject
- When finished, allow some social time between the last wine sample and your guests’ departure by offering tea, coffee, and a selection of baked goods.
Enjoy yourself and have some fun with it! That’s why we drink the stuff in the first place.
Tyler is the founder of North of 9 Fine Wine and also writes about wine in Footprints Magazine.