Hosting a Wine (Tasting) Flight Party

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When planning a wine tasting, there are a few questions you should ask yourself:

  • How many guest would I like to invite?
  • What is my budget?
  • Will I be serving food?
  • What time of year will I be hosting this tasting?

You could certainly pair your tasting with a dinner party, a luncheon or dessert party, but the simplest option is a stand-alone tasting.

For some, there are particular rules of conduct when hosting a wine tasting. If you are interested in hosting a more formal affair Epicurious has a wonderful article with a the step-by-step guide which includes wine shopping advice and essential supplies.

However, if wine tasting etiquette is less significant to you and you would like to offer your guest an opportunity to discover more wines to their liking, perhaps hosting your own wine flight is something you should consider.

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Rather than having a single glass of wine, which is typically an 8 ounce pour, a flight of wine allows you to try three or five wines served in a two ounce glass. Generally, flights feature a theme. For example, you may order a flight of three Chardonnays from around the world, or you may have a flight of wines all produced in Australia. This allows you to experience several different wines at once providing an opportunity to enjoy a variety of tastes or a chance to compare wines and perhaps educate your palette.

The concept of wine flights is perfect for wine tasting parties. You can build your flight around any idea you choose. If you are partial to big reds, try flights of a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Syrah and a Zinfandel.

Maybe you'd like to host your party during the hot summer months. Introduce your friends to a flight of whites: Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and a Pinot Grigio.

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If you'd like to be a bit more serious about your tasting experience, here are the four things you should do to taste

SEE: Hold your glass by the stem tilting it slightly so you can appreciate it's color.

SWIRL: Swirling the wine gently aerates the wine unlocking it's aromas.

SMELL: Stick your nose well into the glass to awaken your tastebuds.

SIP: Take a sip of wine and allow it to roll over your tongue and rest briefly in your mouth before swallowing.

This is your party. Make it as extravagant or as casual as you'd like. If budget is a concern, there are several ideas that could help curb the cost:

  • Pour only a small glass of wine, per guest. You'll be able to serve 12 people from one bottle.
  • Consider having your friends bring a bottle. Designate a type of wine or a region or a price.
  • Have your guests bring an hors d'oeuvres or cheese
  • Many people have tried making their own wines and have had great success. Introduce your friends to your wines that you've made.

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Wine labels provide valuable information about the wine, including the type of wine and it's origin. The bottle, also, provides ample details about the wine.

There are three facets of a wine's bottle to consider:

SHAPE

WEIGHT

COLOR

French winemakers developed various bottle shapes for certain grapes varieties. Winemakers worldwide still adhere to those shapes with few exceptions.

Bottles that are tall and tapered are most often used for Alsace, Mosel, or Rhine varieties, such as gewurztraminer and riesling. Dessert wines have similarly shaped bottles in smaller proportions.

Bottles with sloping shoulders tend to hold either chardonnay wines or pinot noir, while those with long, straight sides and more pronounced shoulders typically contain grape varieties of the Bordeaux region, for instance, merot, cabernet or zinfandel.

The weight of the bottle can often indicate the wine's value. Heavy bottles require more glass and are therefore more expensive. Thicker glass is used to protects the wine from oxidation and is reserved for higher-quality wines.

The color of the bottle is another way of protecting the wine. Green bottles often hold red wines, while white wines come in clear bottles. A darker tinted bottle usually holds a white wine that needs to age, such as a Bordeaux.

The PUNT:

The punt is the indentation at the bottom of the bottle. It's purpose...well......no one seems to know for certain. The most commonly cited purpose is to strengthen the bottle.

HOW TO READ A WINE LABEL: IMPORTANT DETAILS TO NOTE

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Years ago, I began keeping a wine journal. Rather than buying a fancy leather bound book, I purchased an inexpensive book with blank pages. At the top of each page I stick the wine label.

I try to remember to write down the vineyard and producer and the other details that should be kept in a wine journal, but I often forget. I write down the food that I served, the name of my guests and the occasion.

What I enjoy most about keeping this journal is reflecting on all the times my husband and I shared a meal with people we love.

Place your wine journal out on the table, encouraging your guests to leave their comments about the wines. Next time to all gather, bring the book out for a little reflection.

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There are a great many ideas for setting the scene of any wine tasting. These are a few of my favorites:

Disguising your wine bottles need not be fancy. If your opting for a blind tasting, this is a simple and creative wine to mask the vessels.
Disguising your wine bottles need not be fancy. If your opting for a blind tasting, this is a simple and creative wine to mask the vessels. | Source
Using oasis, simply spear grapes with toothpicks and insert into the form. Fill the gaps with moss and lemon leaves. Supplies can be found at your local craft shop.
Using oasis, simply spear grapes with toothpicks and insert into the form. Fill the gaps with moss and lemon leaves. Supplies can be found at your local craft shop. | Source
Using dry transfer sheets, write something witty onto the glasses. In vino veritas; meaning "in wine [there is the] truth"  or wine proverbs. The rubbed letters wash off easily with a little soap and water.
Using dry transfer sheets, write something witty onto the glasses. In vino veritas; meaning "in wine [there is the] truth" or wine proverbs. The rubbed letters wash off easily with a little soap and water. | Source
If you re having a sit down meal, you may choose to make these place cards. This style is slightly casual. If you'd like something a bit more 'formal' use a single cork. Make a slice to insert name card.
If you re having a sit down meal, you may choose to make these place cards. This style is slightly casual. If you'd like something a bit more 'formal' use a single cork. Make a slice to insert name card. | Source
A single cork looks very nice as a napkin holder.
A single cork looks very nice as a napkin holder.
Inexpensive glasses can be purchased at many stores. Depending on the design is etching is very easy.
Inexpensive glasses can be purchased at many stores. Depending on the design is etching is very easy.
Using an empty bottle as a menu card is fun and easy. Use a white glass marker to let your guests know what you'll be serving.
Using an empty bottle as a menu card is fun and easy. Use a white glass marker to let your guests know what you'll be serving.
Make your printouts 4X4, trim and glue onto card stock.
Make your printouts 4X4, trim and glue onto card stock. | Source

Food Suggestions To Serve If You Are Simply Serving Wine:

Beyond cheese pairings, there are many other foods you could serve at your wine tasting.

Dark chocolate truffles

Water crackers/Bread sticks

Dried Fruit

Almond/Pistachios

Strawberries/Peaches

A charcuterie platter

If your hosting an impromptu party, send an e-vite. Here are two sites that offer nearly custom design invitations with social networking features.

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