The beauty about wine is that one does not need to be an expert to appreciate its finesse and quality. Wine can be enjoyed across settings – from formal parties to intimate gatherings. You don’t need to be seated at a bar to restaurant to enjoy a deep glass of wine at the end of a long day! In fact, wine nights can be a ritualistic pleasure, offering an opportunity to discover more about different varieties of wine over a relaxed evening with friends. To help you get started, independent sommelier and dedicated wine enthusiast Abhinay Jhaveri is sharing his simple guide for how to plan the perfect wine tasting party from the comfort of your home. Over to him.
When I moved back to Bombay after a 5-year stint in Paris, one of the things that I missed the most was (good) wine. This led to a few friends and I starting a monthly “wine night” at home. Fast-forward 5 more years and I now bring that magic to other’s homes. Having hosted more than my fair share of at-home wine tastings, here are my tips on how you can recreate the same wherever you may be.
How To Plan The Perfect Wine Tasting At Home
Choose a theme
Before selecting a theme, however, it helps to know a little about your guests’ preferences – do a majority drink red or white wine only? Bubbles: are they a yes or no? Once you have this information (or have chosen to ignore it completely), there are a few ways you can pick a theme. Maybe it’s my inner wine-nerd speaking, but this is the most fun part of planning a tasting:
- Go regional: Choose wines from a particular country or region (e.g. France, or Burgundy).
- Go varietal: Choose wines from a single varietal (e.g. Merlot) from different countries/regions (e.g. California, Bordeaux, etc.)
- Go comparative/event-centred: Choose a face-off between two countries – Old World vs. New World, opposing sides in a big sporting event, etc.
- Go you: Choose your favourite wines that you want to share with everyone!
Source your wines
First, decide how many wines you want to serve as a part of your tasting, and what your budget will be.
Ideally, you would want to choose 5-6 wines, allowing your guests to make the most of a comparative tasting. I recommend 75ml per wine per guest, which is enough to appreciate the wine, especially if it’s being paired with food (more on that later). This means you’d need a bottle of each wine for up to 10 guests. An extra bottle per wine might be necessary if your guestlist is longer.
Avoid supermarkets or off-licences where the wine has probably been sitting in sub-optimal conditions for longer than you’d like. Instead, check out independent shops or those run by established local importers. They’ll guide you better in selecting wines for your theme and budget.
Define the tasting format
You can have your guests seated, with each wine brought out one by one. This works better if you want everyone to focus on the same wine (and food pairing, if there is one), allowing for a more fruitful discussion.
Alternatively, set up tasting stations for each wine. Here, guests can circulate, mingle and try wines at leisure. This works better with larger groups, especially if you can’t have all guests seated at once.
Finally, you may want to include a food pairing in either format. You can keep it simple with a cheese and charcuterie plate, or you can serve appetisers with each wine. Both options make it easier to avoid racking up too many dishes to wash at the end of the day.
Multiple starters allow guests to experiment with different wines and starters to find their ideal pairing! It may be daunting to figure out that perfect pairing on your own, but a good rule of thumb is to serve dishes from the same region as the wine(s). Remember, what grows together, usually goes together.
Recipes from TFD’s archives to help you plan the perfect wine tasting party:
Stories, stories, stories
Why did the winery choose to name their wine after that particular 19th century aristocrat? Did they know that the vineyards from a particular producer are sitting on an ancient battleground? How long has the winemaker’s family been in the business? These anecdotes will go a long way with your guests, allowing them to connect to what’s in their glass. The best part is that most wineries share such information quite openly on their websites (or social media).
The most important logistical aspect of a wine tasting is the glassware. If you have enough glasses, then plan for one per wine per guest. If not, provide at least two glasses per guest. Depending on the wines you serve, the shape can vary. Or keep it simple and use universal-shaped glasses. Plan for enough spittoons (for guests to empty out any unwanted wine) and water glasses. If you want people to note down their impressions of the wine, you can find a wide variety of tasting sheet templates available on the internet. You’re all set!
There you go! You’re ready to plan a phenomenal wine tasting event. Cheers!
About Abhinay Jhaveri
Abhinay Jhaveri, FWS SWS, is an independent sommelier and dedicated wine enthusiast. He curates both public and private wine tasting experiences, where he loves to focus on the stories behind the wine, region, grape variety and winemaker, as well as the food pairings. He specialises in French and Spanish wines. Abhinay picked up his penchant for wine during his time in Paris as a management consultant. After another five year stint in the tech consulting sector, he decided to follow his passion for wine. He also enjoys running, cooking and reading historical fiction in his spare time. He can be reached at @abhinaydrinks if you’re interested in learning more about wine or curating your own private wine-tasting event!