Sunday, June 04, 2023
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Wine Tasting

Host a Wine Tasting

Hosting a Wine Tasting

A great excuse to get together.

Conversation, camaraderie, and exploring the world of wine are a comforting thing.

Having a blind tasting keeps everyone on their toes and honest.

Decide People –Who are you going to invite? Could be among friends, could be political “reason to get together”, could be parents of kids from the same school, neighbors on the block, or just folks that want to start the endless journey of wine. Any reason is a good excuse to have a wine tasting. Invite people that are open, will appreciate the experience, and will get along. Wine can bring out the best in people or the worst. 

Invite only the number of folks that can fit comfortably in your home or wherever the tasting is held.

Decide on a Theme – Could be just about anything. Here are some examples.

California Cabernet Sauvignon

Red Bordeaux

Italian Whites under $15

The Basics: Red-Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Grenache, Tempranillo

The Basics: White-Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Viognier, Riesling, Chenin Blanc

Champagne for the Holidays


Dessert Wines

Whites after mowing the yard!

Reds by the fire.

The Best Food Pairings – Sauternes & Foie Gras/Oysters & Champagne/Barbecue & Malbec/ Fino Sherry & Marcona almonds/Sancerre & Chevre Goat Cheese

Decide Day/Time – Are your guests single and young? Are they married with children? Church in the morning? School? Work? Schedule accordingly.

WineThe host can provide the wine OR the host can ask each guest to bring a bottle. Both options are fun. If the host is concerned about the cost of providing all of the wine, the host can ask guests to throw $funds into the pile (say $20/guest or whatever the cost). If there is a local wine store with a staff you trust, go there. Explore and experiment.

Food -The marriage of food & wine is a glorious thing. Everything is affected by everything. Tannin, acidity, and sweetness, mixed with different ingredients and preparation methods will bring out different taste sensations with the same bottle of wine. It’s nice to have a contrast of various cheeses (textures and countries of origin) (ie: Manchego, Pecorino, Boursin, Stilton, Brie, English Cheddar, etc.), olives, crackers. I try to use foods of the regions/countries I am serving wine from, local & native dishes. Let nature do its thing. Stay away from artichokes, asparagus, yogurt, and vinegar, as these are not as food-friendly and tend to create friction with wine. I, personally, love having olives around, but they can take away from many wines. Contrary to common conversation, I think chocolate is not generally great for pairing either. Stores like Grapevine Market, Central Market, and Whole Foods Market usually have many wine-oriented edibles to complement the wine.

Wine glasseshost can provide or host can ask guests to bring their own. Glasses also change the flavor of the wine. They make a huge difference, but that’s another topic.

Water pitcherto rinse glass out or to take a water break, should some choose to. Nice to have option.

Dump bucket –not clear glass, though, so you don’t see remnants (to spit or to pour wine out)

Pens & paper (to write thoughts down about wines)

Brown wine bags for red wine/Aluminum Foil Wrap for white wine, should you decide to do a blind tasting. Pick some up at a local wineshop, Central Market, Whole Foods.

Winestem charms – to identify your glass. Lots of designs. Can be found at Grapevine Market (Austin), Spec’s (Houston), Target, Williams-Sonoma, TJ Max.

Ice Tub, if doing a white wine tasting


Stay away from cigarettes & cigars. Super conflict with wine tasting!

(although, I don’t follow this, as I love cigars…, but do as I say…not as I…)

“NO PERFUMES/COLOGNES, please!”- Tell your guests ahead of time

Serving Temperature

Both red and white still wines (not sparkling) should be served between 60 and 64 degrees. At this temperature, most experienced wine tasters agree that aromas and flavors are easily detectable. There are always exceptions, but this is a good general rule to follow. Sparkling wine is usually tasted chilled, though; tasting many sparkling wines can be overkill for a blind tasting as the carbonation can be too much for many.

Tasting Order

If you aren’t hosting a blind tasting, a general rule of thumb is to follow the following tasting order: whites to reds, lighter-bodied to heavier-bodied, and dry to sweet wines. Sometimes you just have to guess using your best judgment. Before trying the wines, assess order by appearance and nose alone. Heavier wines tend to be deeper in color and generally more intense on the nose (smelling the wine). Sweeter wines, generally denser, tend to leave thick viscous ‘legs’ down the inside of a glass upon swirling.

Actual Tasting

Tasting is what it’s all about. We use the same terminology to describe completely contrasting experiences.

Most folks’ taste buds are able to detect sweet, sour, bitter, and salty flavors. There may be slight differences in sensitivity, but the main difference is in our ‘definition’ of what we taste. Pour the same wine for 100 people and you will generally get a split vote between “it’s a dry, full-bodied wine” and “it’s a sweet, light-bodied wine”. We don’t typically agree. If you ever walk into a wineshop and tell the wine steward that you are searching for a “smooth, full-bodied, dry red” and he immediately starts walking you to “that” wine, run… He doesn’t know what you are talking about. It requires investigation. Investigation of who you are, what you are used to drinking, and most-importantly what YOU consider to be “smooth, full-bodied, and dry”… This is why throwing a wine tasting is so much fun!!! Like food, wine is a subjective subject. Americans grow up on Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and fatty, fried sweet stuff. This is typically what we like in our wines. What many Americans consider dry, full-bodied, and complex, other folks consider to be a sweet and one-dimensional blob, with no complexity. Remember that a 750ml bottle only has a little more than 25oz. of wine. Pour small, but enough to get the idea. Folks may want to revisit the wine later in the tasting. Remind everyone of this!


When tasting wine, swirl the wine in the glass to allow some air to get the aroma to come out and play. Swish the wine around in your mouth, allowing all of your taste buds to take part. Does the color of the wine give an indication on its age? Is it ruby red or tawny brown? How easy is it to see through? A pale white might mean you’ve poured a youthful, light-bodied and crisp treat, while straw-colored or golden hues might point at a fuller-bodied or even an older over-the-hill wine. Young red wines can be dark and opaque purple while an older wine can sometimes be suspect due to a red brick or amber hue, especially at the rim of the glass. Wine is a living thing that evolves. It has youth. It has maturity. It has death.


When smelling the wine, how intense is the aroma? Does it remind you of something? Grandma frying up smoked-bacon in the kitchen when you were a kid? Chocolate chip cookies? Filet Mignon? Work your brain to dig into those old memory files to locate definitions of what you are smelling. Your ability to identify different aromas will become stronger the more you try. As do chefs, most experience wine tasters will tell stories of how their senses became more sensitive after regularly tasting/drinking wine, especially the sense of smell. The aroma of the wine is one of the most important aspects. Does it smell different than it tastes in the mouth? It becomes an entirely new experience.


Wines can come across with the structure of a 14th century European Castle that lasts throughout the ages. Wines can come across as cookie-cutter suburban grid homes that fall apart within the first year of completion. Is the acidity off balance? Does the wine make your mouth pucker (tannin)? Is the wine light-bodied or heavy-bodied? Is it sweet? Does the alcohol seem off balance and burn your nose like a straight vodka? Does any part of the wine appear to be screaming for your attention (off-balance)? Is it friendly to you or does it require special attention? Does it linger in your mouth after you swallow or disappear like a power outage? Most importantly, do YOU like the wine? Would you buy it again?

Experience. Experience. Experience.

This is how one becomes a better taster and more educated with wine. You have to taste, taste, and taste some more. Start a monthly winegroup! Any excuse to taste all things wine. It is a beautiful thing!

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