I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food.
― W.C. Fields
Are you wondering how to host a wine tasting event, but not sure where to start? It’s time to awaken your inner sommelier! We’ve looked at everything from wine pairings to palate cleansers in this guide.
Whether you’re planning a black-tie event or just a get-together at home, here are 11 things you need to know when organising a wine tasting.
1. Where to host a wine tasting
The venue you pick for your wine tasting should align with the overall theme of your event. If there is no specific theme, then pretty much any classy venue will do.
Here are some of the most popular wine tasting venues in London:
Hosting the wine tasting at home? Here are some great tips to get you started.
2. Do you need a professional sommelier?
You don’t need a professional sommelier present at your wine tasting. But working with one can make your life as an event organiser a whole lot easier.
Sommeliers can help you prepare a wine list and will know a lot about their creation process and regional origin. They can also help you pair the wines with the right food.
Tip: You can hire a professional sommelier for around £200 plus the cost of the wine.
3. How to taste wine
If you’ve not opted for a sommelier and would rather do the heavy lifting yourself, you’ll need to understand how to taste the wine so you can instruct your attendees.
A good rule of thumb is to use the 5S’s when tasting wine:
- See if the wine is clear and has a deep colour.
- Swirl the wine to release the aromas and check the legs.
- Smell the aromas to stimulate your palate.
- Sip the wine and let it suck air through your mouth.
- Swallow the wine (or spit it out if you have a lot of wine to taste).
Tip: Read more about how to taste wine and develop your palate ahead of your tasting event.
4. What is a wine tasting sheet?
Wine tasting sheets (also known as wine tasting scorecards) are printouts you should hand out to your guests before you start tasting the wines.
It will help everyone keep track of what they thought of each wine. After all the wines have been tasted, you can review the tasting sheets to see which one was the most popular.
Tip: You can use these ready-made wine tasting sheet templates for your tasting event.
5. How many attendees should you invite?
There is no limit to how many attendees you can have at your wine tasting event. But bear in mind that you want to create an intimate atmosphere that stimulates the senses.
Stick to around 8 to 12 attendees. Too much noise can be distracting if you’re trying to tell a story about a particular wine. It also makes it difficult to facilitate a discussion about the different wines you’ve been tasting.
6. How much wine do you need for a wine tasting?
Again, there are no hard and fast rules for how much wine you need for a wine tasting. But it’s always better to err on the side of caution and end up with some leftovers.
7. Types of wine and grapes
You’ll need a basic understanding of the different varieties of grapes used in white and red wine. There’s a lot to get your head around, but let’s start by looking at the most common grapes.
The most popular white wine grapes are:
The most popular red wine grapes are:
Bear in mind that there are over 10,000 different wine grapes. Many winemakers use several different types of grape to produce their unique blend of wine.
8. Types of wine glasses
With so many different kinds of individual grapes and combinations, it will hardly surprise you that there’s a whole range of different wine glasses designed to bring out the aromas.
Types of red wine glasses:
- Pinot Noir
Types of white wine glasses:
- Rose White
- Sweet Wine
Other types of wine glasses:
Tip: Read more about the different types of wine glasses so you know which ones to get.
9. What wine goes with what food
You’ve got the grapes and glasses down. So far, so good. Now it’s time for the wine pairings. This is relevant if you’re hosting a combined wine and food tasting event.
Different wines go with different flavours, so you should consult a wine and food pairing chart.
Here are some of the most common wine pairings:
- Cabernet Sauvignon + red meat
- Champagne + anything salty
- Chardonnay + fatty fish dishes
- Dry Rosé + rich and cheesy dishes
- Grüner Veltliner + fresh dishes
- Malbec + sweet and spicy barbecue sauces
- Moscato d’Asti + fruit desserts
- Off-dry Riesling + sweet and spicy dishes
- Pinot Grigio + light fish dishes
- Pinot Noir + earthy flavours
- Rosé Champagne + hors d’oeuvres
- Sauvignon Blanc + tart dressings and sauces
- Syrah + highly spiced dishes
- Zinfandel + pâtés, mousses, and terrines
Tip: Learn more about how and why each wine pairing works, so you nail the right combination.
10. Which palate cleansers should you use?
If you’re not pairing the wine with specific foods, you’ll still need some palate cleansers ready for the guests to use in between tasting the different wines.
Common palate cleansers for wine tastings include:
- Cheese (surprise!)
- Crackers or biscuits
- Lemon water
- Tortilla chips
- White bread
Tip: Read up on the differences between palate cleansers to get a better understanding of them.
11. Use a wine tasting checklist
As you can see, there’s a reason professional sommeliers need a certification to work in the industry. Since you most likely don’t have that, a wine tasting checklist will have to suffice. Here are a few to get you started:
- Checklist for hosting a wine tasting party at home by The Sommelier Company
- Checklist for successful wine tasting by Wine Country Getaways
Tip: Our ultimate guide to a successful food and drinks event walks you through the A to Z of organising this type of event.
Time to taste some wine
You now have a broad overview of what it takes to organise and host a wine tasting event. Use the resources in this article to help you plan it. Then consider creating an event on a ticketing platform to track RSVPs or sell tickets.
Got first-hand experience organising wine tastings? Are you a budding sommelier? Share your experiences with us in the comments section below!