How to Host a Wine Tasting Party

Wine Tasting PartyA wine tasting party can be a great way to learn about wine and discover a few new favorites as well. This fun event has become an annual gathering for Woodbury Wine Shop customers Derek Bohn and his wife. "The idea behind our party was to create a game to help our less wine savvy friends explore wine in a fun, unintimidating atmosphere. We chose to do a blind tasting, where the bottles are bagged or wrapped to hide their identity," said Derek.

"For their tasting, Derek and I chose eight bottles of wine; four red and four white, each being a different varietal," offered Brian Mallie, Kowalski's Wine Specialist. "There was one bottle of each varietal, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinot Noir and Sangiovese for the reds and Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Grigio for the whites. The bottles were wrapped and marked as red #1, red #2, white #1, etc. At the start of the tasting, each participant received a sheet with the name of all eight grapes followed by a description of the wine representing that category listed in random order. The participants then tasted the selected wines and attempted to match the grape/description on the sheet to the corresponding numbered bottle," added Bohn. "When the wines were unveiled, the guest with the most correct matches was given a bottle of one of the wines."

To round out the evening, you could invite your guests to provide their favorite appetizer, imported cheese or salumi to accompany the wines. Kelly Wagner Hinkemeyer stopped by our Eagan Market and worked with Wine Shop manager Dave Burggraass when she was planning her wine tasting party. "It was one of the best parties we ever hosted and paired new wines with a variety of appetizers that made for a really fun and educational gathering," remembers Kelly.

Drinking Red WineThere are many books that offer suggestions on wine tasting parties as well. Drink This: Wine Made Simple by Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, James Beard award-winning food and wine columnist and Minnesota Monthly Magazine editor, is one we like. This very readable book is structured around nine major wine varietals and is a tutorial that will help you put together a tasting alone or with friends. In the Syrah chapter, for instance, Grumdahl suggests buying five bottles: a bottom shelf Australian Shiraz, a single-vineyard American Syrah, a Washington State Syrah, a real French Syrah and a single-vineyard Barossa Valley Shiraz. Rather than trying to hunt for an exact bottle, you can take the list of categories to your local wine seller and choose your wines from the wide variety available. The author also includes food pairing suggestions and tasting markers to help tasters pick out elusive fragrances like raspberry, fresh grass, chocolate, coffee and tobacco. It is a great jumping-off guide for those who might be intimidated by wine.

If you are looking for a "party with a purpose," we encourage you to gather your wine-loving friends and plan a wine tasting party in the months ahead. In addition to being just good fun, comparing wines side-by-side is an opportunity to learn as much about your own palate and preferences as the wines themselves.

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