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At-Home Wine Parties

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Beginning with homemakers of decades past, the idea of having home parties to showcase products and services has been successful for great reason; it’s a party! No matter if the theme is to purchase or enjoy kitchenware, candles or jewelry, they’re usually successful because guests share a particular interest. Wine is one of my favorite reasons to invite like-minded folks to try something new or share the wines they enjoy. 

Wine parties are on the rise! Featuring a theme created by the host, they’re different from the usual lawn party or barbecue. Whether the party is casual or highly wine-centric, everyone has a great time enjoying and sharing feedback with other guests. Since Memorial Day is the traditional kick-off to summer, it’s the perfect time to start thinking about hosting a wine party of your own!

There are several ways to approach this. All wines could be from Spain, for example, or a particular region in California. You could set the party around one varietal such as zinfandel, barbera or champagne/sparkling wines. If you’re selecting wines from your favorite winery, perhaps your winemaker could share tasting notes to help facilitate a great experience for your guests.

Will you provide all the wines for your guests to taste and evaluate, or do your guests adhere to the theme and bring wines in a specific price range? Either format is fun; each wine could be numbered and covered by a plain brown bag or a cloth wine bag. Your guests could vote on the best bottle or they could compete to see who can guess the correct varietals in each bottle! If you are having more than eight guests, you will need two of each of the bottles being tasted. Set up a station for guests to use pens to mark and decorate their wine glasses or keep track of their bottle of water. 

To host a great wine party, one needs to consider the logistics for tasting and mingling. In addition to having indoor and outdoor space and seating for your guests, you’ll need to assign an area for “mystery wine” bottles to be lined up for tasting and judging. For tasting, I recommend having at least three wine glasses per guest available for use. If you consider renting stemware, all wine glasses will match and you won’t have to wash the stemware at the end of the evening! If possible, use red-wine-specific or white-wine-specific stemware, as it will enhance the wine tasting experience for your guests. 

Everyone loves a prize! If your guests are voting on their favorite bottle or if someone wins the contest for picking the right varietal, perhaps the winner goes home with a pre-selected bottle of wine, a new set of stemware or a private tasting tour to a local winery.

Learning Moments
Some of my favorite wine parties have had a guest speaker that talks about the specific vineyard or terroir or region where the wine grapes have been grown. Soils differ from ZIP code to ZIP code and create unique influences in how that wine tastes on your palate. The taste and body of Grenache differs depending on where the vineyard and wine region are located. Wine lovers also enjoy learning about wine glasses, use of cork compared to screwcap enclosures and proper storage for example.

Food + Friends!
Try to keep the foods simple with not too much spice or oil, which can coat your palate. Spice is delicious with fruit-forward wines, but for a wine tasting, the best palate is a neutral one. Definitely label the dishes with ingredients, as many folks need to monitor food allergies.

The best pairing with wine is friends! When you put together your guest list, consider those who absolutely adore champagne versus the ones who just toast with the bubbly stuff a few times a year. The latter group will not truly enjoy the sparkling wine experience you are hoping to share. The same goes for red wines as well. Wine lovers who enjoy rich hearty red wines may not enjoy a wine party that more heavily features lighter white wines, for example. 

Last but not least, remember the water! Whether you have a pitcher-and-glass water station set aside or small bottles of water for your guests, please encourage everyone to hydrate during the entire wine tasting experience. It’s a good idea to recommend two to three ounces of water to every ounce of wine to keep the palate cleared and the body hydrated for good health and safety. Above all, enjoy the season, explore new wines and share with your friends; that’s really what enjoying wine life is all about!