Putting On A Wine Party


… or “How To Host A Wine Party The Wrong Way With The Right Results”

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My wife and I decided during our first year of marriage (4 1/2 years ago now) that we wanted to have a wine tasting party. We started off with a few friends, each bringing a couple of bottles to share, some food and the required wine tasting notes.

The first year was fine, a little hoity toity, but still fun. The next year was the same thing.

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Then two years ago, we found our niche in wine parties, and we’ve continue that through this year. And we’ll continue in future years. It just works for us.

the traditional approach to wine parties includes:

  • Have 8 or fewer people
  • Have food after the tastings
  • Take time to review each aspect of the wines: appearance, bouquet, taste in the mouth (with lots of gurgling noises) and finish
  • Take copious notes to determine flavors and scents found, characteristics that are important, etc.

Our approach is a bit different:

  • Have as many people as we can fit on our first floor (18 this year)
  • Have food ready for when guests arrive (the food is mine to do, and I don’t want it to sit too long!)
  • Pass the bottles around one by one, talk about it in general
  • Let people write whatever they want
  • Make fun of John for bringing the pink wine

There are some things we do that are traditional. Wines go from sweet to dry whites, then sweet to dry reds. However, we may throw some other stuff in the mix. One Bordeaux (our theme this year was French wines) was supposed to go well with chocolate. As luck had it, I’d fixed a chocolate creme fraiche dessert with a burnt caramel/fleur de sel sauce that we served along with the wine so people could try the tastes together.

Guests starting showing up at about 7:00 PM. I had made steak au poivre, mushroom crepes with herbes de Provence, French bread and crackers. We had about 10 kinds of French cheeses, and the featured dish was pan-seared foie gras on grilled brioche with onion/fig relish.

Seared Foie Gras

We spent time eating, and around 8:00 PM, I turned on the Ohio State Buckeye football game (with the sound off). Then the wine tasting started. There were 18 bottles: 9 white, 9 red. I started on the sweet whites. Every couple had brought a red and a white. I opened a bottle while the person that brought that one gave everyone some information about the wine that they’d brought with them. I poured a bit in my wife’s glass and my glass, then passed the wine on. As each wine made its way around the table, we’d talk about it a bit, but nothing too formal. I had already discussed how to sample a wine, and most were doing the right things, but not formally.

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At the end of the whites, we took a vote on the best and worst of the white wines, and the couples that brought each of those got to select a gift from our gift table. As the night progressed, I came up with reasons to let people select gifts, like the first screwtop wine, or the one with the best information on their wine; just anything I could think of to ensure each couple got 2 gifts.

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After the wines were done, people mingled more and enjoyed whichever of the wines they had liked the most.  It’s fun to see, with that many people, the different tastes people have.  Some of the wines I liked others didn’t, and some they liked I thought were awful.  That’s why they make different wines, though.

So I took half of what is traditional in a wine party and threw it out.  That’s not to say a party with all the traditional wine tasting bits left in can’t be fun; we just like the way we do it.  It makes a very approachable party for people.  We had some guests that don’t drink, so they had French lemonades and sparkling water to have instead, and they were included in the food and conversation, so they weren’t left out, either.  The idea was to get our friends together and have fun.

And we did.

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Reader Comments

Hi Curt!
Thank you for the thorough report and the nice ideas. The gifts are especially insightful.
I have a more methodological take on partying. But the social element remains primary.

Félicien,
You have lots more detailed info that I gave here! It’s great info for setting up a wine party. Our party is a bit looser, I think.