A couple of weekends ago I made a trip home to my parents’ house for my brother Nick’s annual birthday wine tasting. Since I’ve bragged to you about how great they are before I thought that this time around I would shake it up. Instead of a recap I’ve decided to bring you, dear reader, into the tradition.
Hosting your own wine tasting is simple and fun. Here are four tips to get you started.
1 – Set the difficulty
The first thing you’ll want to do is decide how difficult you want to make the tasting. It might sound counterintuitive, but choosing a variety of different wines makes things easier. Tasting wines side-by-side offers the chance to directly compare different wines, so having all the same grape can make it harder to tell the difference between them. That being said, if you want to do a deep dive into a certain kind of wine then choosing all the same one is the way to go.
My stepdad (aka the Official Wine Chooser) is a fan of cabernet sauvignons so our tasting featured five of them. The sixth wine was a tempranillo from Ribera del Duero which, conveniently, offers many of the same characteristics as a cab sauv.
Stepdad often chooses line-ups of the same grape, which leads my mom and I to advocate for an easier, more diverse selection for future tastings. It has yet to work.
2 – Lose your senses
Possibly the most important part of the way my family does wine tastings is that we arrange for the tasting to be double blind. The main reason for this is so that all of us can enjoy the tasting and get to play the guessing game which, in my opinion, is the best part.
Here’s how we set up a blind tasting:
- Someone (usually stepdad) picks the wines
- Someone (usually stepdad) puts these bottle sock things on the bottles. Paper bags will do in a pinch. The key here is hiding any identifying features.
- Now that the identifying features are hidden, someone else (usually NOT stepdad – this is key!) marks the bottles. We use the little sticker dots, giving each bottle a different colour.
- Someone (doesn’t matter who – the bottles are ‘blind’ now) opens the bottles and pours the wine.
And voila! Double blind!
3 – Make a meal out of it
Don’t just offer wine and be done with it. Crackers and baguette are helpful for resetting your palate between wines, so you might as well add some cheese and paté to go with it. You could even add some charcuterie like my family did. We ended up having a delicious spread, complete with these mind-blowingly delicious sardines from Portugal.
Wine tasting is hungry work, after all.
4 – Have fun
When you set up a tasting like this, with a bunch of things added to the process above and beyond ‘open – pour – drink’, it can feel like you have to make the tasting serious business. Listen to me when I tell you that doesn’t have to be the case.
There’s a reason why my family keeps doing these things, even (especially!) with all the parameters. I mean, yeah, it’s delicious, and you learn a lot, and it’s a great excuse for my stepdad to dig into his cellar. But more than that? It’s fun!
So go ahead – HAVE FUN.
Have you ever done a wine tasting?