What’s the best format for a wine tasting party?
When you’re hosting your own tasting party there are a couple of things you’ll do differently than a professional trade tasting (sipping vs. spitting) but the basic format is the same. Most wine tastings feature four to eight different wines that have a common theme that ties them together.
In this guide, we’ll lay out a proven tasting format and a few wine tasting party ideas that are not only useful, but a lot of fun to try.
Wine Tasting Party Ideas
A formal wine tasting with proper place settings in Rioja, Spain. Notice: even pro tastings will use 2 glasses per guest.
While there are a myriad of different techniques to decorate the table, if you have well-curated wines it doesn’t matter how the table looks. If you select wines based on a specific theme, people will pay closer attention to what they’re drinking. It also helps if you have wine tasting placemats to write on.
- This pairing focuses on wines from a specific area. Try 4 top wines of Napa Valley or Piedmont
- An in-depth way to understand a variety. Buy different price brackets of one type of wine grape (e.g. Grenache or Grüner Veltliner)
- New World vs. Old World
- One of the classic old world vs. new world tastings is Napa Valley Merlot vs. Right Bank Bordeaux.
- Big and Bold Wines
- Compare and contrast the biggest boldest wines from around the world.
- Elegant Wines
- Compare and contrast the lightest red wines on earth. Find out what we mean by ‘elegant’
- The best way to do this is to ask for library vintages from your favorite winery.
- Price Comparative
- Crowdsource guests to spend less than $20 on a bottle of wine and blind taste them to determine everyone’s favorite.
- Blind Tasting Party
- Wrap bottles in aluminum foil if you don’t have enough wine bags. Find out what wines to select for a blind tasting.
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How should the wines be ordered?
Serve lighter alcohol wines before higher alcohol wines and Old World wines before New World wines.
While there are no rules for wine order (i.e. you can do whatever you want) there is a general understanding that, as we taste, our palates change. In other words, some wines blow out your palate and others are so nuanced that you won’t be able to taste them if they’re served later on.
Wine Serving Order:
- Sparkling wines (Champagne, Cava, -chill)
- Light white wines (Sauvignon Blanc, Albariño)
- Bold white wines (Chardonnay, oaked white wines)
- Rosé wines
- Light red wines (Pinot Noir, Gamay)
- Bold and high alcohol red wines (Cabernet, Shiraz -decant)
- Sweet wines (Sweet Riesling, Port, Dessert Wine)
Need more examples of wine styles? See the Basic Wine Guide
How much wine do I need for a wine tasting party?
½ bottle per guest.
A little over a half a bottle of wine per guest is ideal. For instance, if you have an 8 person party, plan on having about 5 bottles of wine (each guest will receive a half-glass of each bottle). It won’t be too much to make people drunk, but enough to have a great party. In some of the best professional tastings, the first bottle is usually an ice breaker aperitif such as Champagne or Prosecco. People just seem to lighten up instantly with a glass of bubbles.