Wine tasting is a top notch way to spend an evening with friends. At least there’ll be something interesting to throw down your throat while you chat, as opposed to the usual bag dans le box party wine. A friend is planning to run a couple of tastings with friends for charidee, and asked me if I had any pointers. As desperately pressing as all my other engagements may or may not be, I ended up writing a little outline plan of how the evening might go. I thought I might as well post it here in case anyone fancies a look.
Taste 2 wines at a time so you can compare them – this really makes the individual qualities of each stand out.
Wrap each bottle in tissue so everyone is tasting blind (make sure YOU know which one is which!) Print out tasting sheets with space for notes and also tickboxes so guests can guess things like: is it old or new world? What grape variety might it be made from? (give 4 options) How much might it cost? (4 options again).
You’ll need: 24 wine glasses, 12 Champagne flutes, 12 tasting hseets, pens/pencils, water, ice buckets if you can’t fit all the white wine in the fridge.
Everyone arrives and sparkling wine is served with nibbles. Make sure everyone has two empty wine glasses, a tasting sheet and a pen.
Sauvignon Blanc – 1 x French (Touraine can be really good value) and 1 x New Zealand (Marlborough).
Pour everyone a sample of each. Sniff! Talk about aromas. Taste! Discuss flavours. Are they the same as the aromas? Generally, the French should be more refined compared to the pronounced fruit and aromas of the NZ. Both should have gooseberry, grass and green fruit aromas/flavours but the French may be more balanced and will hopefully have some mineral notes (like wet stone). The NZ will probably be more acidic (should make your mouth water more) and limey.
When everyone’s done discussing, uncover the label and tell them where it’s from, what it’s made from, and how much it costs – one point for each correct guess. You could also add a little info about the specific regions/winemakers/winemaking techniques – if you think anyone will be interested!
Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blends – 1 x red Bordeaux and 1 x Australian or Chilean Cab/Merlot blend
Again, the French will probably be more restrained and the aromas/flavours may be more balanced and integrated. The new world wine should be more fruit driven and the fruit may be riper (like jam) partly due to the very hot sun where the grapes are grown. Discuss, guess, then uncover as above.
Shiraz/Syrah – 1 x Rhone or S. France and 1 x Australian (if you didn’t use an Aussie Cab/Merlot above) or South African.
Both should be big and full, with the lovely spice typical of the grape. Once again the French may be subtler and perhaps more complex as opposed to the huge great juicy chunk of wine from the new world. If you choose a South African, it may well be slightly smoky. By this point your guests will probably be pretty good at spotting the old world and the new world wines, so they’ll be feeling pretty chuffed with themselves!
You could either carry on comparing more wines now, or for a bit of variety you could try some food and wine matching. Italian wine is a good bet for this as most of it is highly acidic and tastes a million times better with food. So maybe a Chianti with some Italian meats and cheeses, or a Rioja with some tapas, or an Argentinian Malbec with some pieces of cut up steak. Mmmmmmmmmm…… It might be nice to finish with a dessert wine and something sweet. As we’re approaching that festive time of year, how about mince pies!
You could also prepare a printout with all the wines you’ve tasted – where they’re from, how they’re made, who makes them, and don’t forget to say where you can buy them.
I’ve costed this example up (using widely available wines) choosing bottles for £7-8 each and including nibbles, and food matching, and I reckon you can do it for pretty much spot on £100. One way to bring the cost down is to invite each guest to bring one of the wines on the list so you don’t have to fork out for the lot. It’s just an outline of the sort of thing you could do, very easily adaptable to your own taste. Hope it helps, chin chin!