You may love a glass of wine but, does that mean you are fully prepared to throw a wine tasting to match the likes of a Bordeaux brunch? Probably not. Never fear, with these top tips you will be sipping like the sumptuous lush you long to be and look damn fine whilst doing so.

1) The Invitations

Often neglected when thinking about a fancy wine tasting but really rather important, especially if you and your guests are quite new to the wine game. This is an opportunity to outline the do’s and don’ts for the evening. Ensuring that when guests arrive, no one has made a fatal faux pas and that you can start the evening straight on a high.

The perfect invitation:

2) Will guests be chipping in?

Yes you may be the host with the most, but a decent bottle of wine can cost a pretty penny! Decide whether this will be a reoccurring event, where guests will take it in turn to host and shed out for the divine liquid. Or, if you want to share the load, simply add a contribution fee to the invitation above – ‘Please bring £20 to pop in the kitty’.

3) Decide your theme

So, what will you actually be tasting? If this is a one-off event then it may be better to stick to one country, say France but have a selection of regions. For example:

– A red from Burgundy

– A red from Bordeaux

– A white from Sancerre

– A white from Alsace

– A rose from Provence

These examples have been given as they are the regions best known for that wine. An unusual but delicious offering would also be a white from Chateauneuf du Pape (reds almost always command a higher price than their white counterparts, except in this region).

If the evening is the first of many such events, then it’s always nice to stick to particular regions, that way you can explore the world systematically. Make sure to keep notes as it can soon merge into one delicious blur!

4) Have you got what you need?

Depending on how many persons you are inviting it is important to know two things:

1) Have we got the right glasses and enough of them?

2) How much wine should we buy?

Starting with the glasses; this is your home and so no one should expect a glass for each and every wine. If you are having a number of guests then it may be worth a visit to a local pub or restaurant to see if you could hire any glasses for the evening rather than shelling out to buy new ones.

Make sure there is at least one glass per person, and you should have water close by to rinse the glass after each tasting. If possible, one glass for red and one glass for white and rose is preferred.

THE BIG QUESTION – How much wine should we buy?

Do not stress about this, it is always better to buy too much as it will add nicely to your wine rack for future cozy evenings by the fire.

One bottle contains about 10 tastings (depending on your generosity), with that in mind, for a tasting with 8 people:

– Provide a minimum of 4 different wines, a maximum of 6

– Buy a minimum of 2 bottles per wine, maximum of 3

TOP TIP – If you are worried about running out, have a supply of a few cheaper bottles to hand. They won’t be necessarily needed, but if guests are having an ‘overly wonderful’ time it ensures the merriment will continue without wasting expensive bottles on sloshed palettes.

5) The layout

As host, it will be up to you to lead the way in the evening’s shenanigans and after the third bottle tasting, that can become a little tricky.

Sidenote – In professional tastings, it is customary to spit after tasting rather than swallow. However, when it is your home amongst friends it is entirely down to your preference.

1) Get labels ready – People will lose their wine glass, it is inevitable. To lessen the risk you can buy felt tip pens meant for writing on glass. Or, the penny saving option of masking tape stuck on the base of the glass, or leftover Christmas present labels.

2) Make sure water & nibbles are available:

– Both will be needed to cleanse the palette between tastings so make sure to provide water glasses and a nice selection of nibbles.

– Water will also be needed for rinsing out glasses between tasting so make sure to provide a container that waste can be poured into (this can also be your spittoon for the evening).

3) Decant the reds – This need only be done an hour before people arrive. If you do not have a decanter, then pour the bottle out into a jug and then pop it back into the bottle with a funnel. This will ensure it mingles with the oxygen, allowing the aromas to bloom, this is known as ‘breathing’.

4) Chill the whites/rose – Have a google to see at what temperature the wine you have bought should be served at, usually the wine should be chilling in the fridge for at least 2-3 hours prior to serving.

5) Create a serving list – Even under pressure you’ll know exactly which wine should be tried first, this is a simple rule of thumb list (there are of course some exceptions):

  • White before Red
  • Dry before Sweet
  • Light body before Heavy body
  • Young before Old
  • Fortified last
  • Sparkling first

Just think of it as this, if you were to smell a heavy chocolate & orange cake, and then tried to smell a light vanilla creme brûlée – would you be able to?

Finally, make sure to invite the right people. This is YOUR evening and for you to flourish as host extraordinaire, you need to be able to have open conversations about the wine. This is made a lot easier when there is no leering, hiccuping mess in the corner to constantly think about.


For information on ‘How To… Taste Wine Like a Pro’, make sure you keep an eye on the site as this post will be coming very soon.

For now, you can find some simple tips on tasting wine, as well as how to put wine correctly in my post ‘How To…Look Like You Know Red Wine’.

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