Wine Tasting Tips for the Novice

A Wine tasting is a perfect excuse for friends to get together and share their favorite vintages. However, if you’ve never attended a wine tasting, let alone hosted one, it can seem rather daunting… but it doesn’t have to be.

What Is a Wine Tasting?

A wine tasting brings individuals together to sample one or several wines and share their impressions. As wine tastes slightly different to different people, sharing thoughts can lead to a greater appreciation of the wine. There are usually cards that allow individuals to put down their thoughts on the wines flavor, body, legs, clarity, and smell. Wine tastings don’t have to be pretentious affairs. In fact, they are usually more fun if they aren’t.

What to Include in a Wine Tasting

If you’re hosting a wine tasting this season, make a list that includes:

  • One to three wines. Although it may be tempting to serve a large variety of wines, it’s better to limit your tasting to just a few. Similar to testing perfume samples, your nose can get overwhelmed by too many different scents. Consider planning your tasting around a theme, such as Pinot Noirs from the Pacific Northwest or dry Rieslings. A fun to twist to add is to make the tasting a blind test – your guests won’t know which wine they are trying, so they won’t have preconceived notions.
  • Water. Offer carafes or bottles of water at your wine tasting so that participants can cleanse their palate (rid their mouth of the taste of one wine) before tasting another wine.
  • Crackers. Dry, unflavored crackers serve a similar function as the water. They cleanse the palate between wine tastings.
  • Spittoons. Although it may sound uncouth to those unfamiliar with wine tasting, many experienced tasters spit out the wine rather than swallow it. After all, the purpose of a wine tasting is to experience the bouquet and flavor profile of the wine, not to get drunk. Metal wine buckets work well as spittoons.
  • Food (optional). Though not essential to a wine tasting, food adds an additional sensory dimension to your event. Pick foods that complement your wines, such as shellfish with Champagne, chocolate with (red) Zinfandels, or most ethnic foods with Riesling.

Don’t be afraid of throwing a wine tasting event. Pick a few interesting wines, gather your friends and enjoy the camaraderie of a shared experience.