How To Throw A Killer At-Home Wine Tasting

Because charcuterie isn’t just hard to pronounce, it’s hard to execute, as well.

Just because you’re not a sommelier—a literal career that requires one to have ample experience in the beverage service industry and pass a complex certification exam—doesn’t mean you can’t throw an incredible wine tasting, right at home.

If you share the same passion for wine that we do here at ESTATENVY, you’ve come to the right place. To help you throw the at-home wine tasting to end all wine tastings, we’ve assembled these tips that will take your event to the next level.

Keep the party small...

Wine tastings go hand-in-hand with conversation, so limit the guest count to 10 or fewer. A smaller group encourages discussion and helps your supply go farther. You’ll need to account for between a half and a full bottle of wine per person, so keeping the guest count below a dozen helps eliminate the need for purchasing duplicate bottles to ensure everyone gets a taste of the full spread. And realistically, the fewer people you invite, the more wine there is for everyone.

...but the selection large

Speaking of more wine, variety is incredibly important at a tasting event—not only to ensure that the glasses are never empty, but also to facilitate learning. Wine tastings are educational in a way that drinking a glass of wine at a time can’t be, as the act of sipping smaller portions in close succession illuminates the nuances of the flavor more so than consuming a larger amount over a longer period.

While it depends on the size of your party, we recommend having at least eight different bottles of wine to sample from: a mix of whites, reds and, seasonally permitting, rosés as well.

Whatever the exact number you choose, remember that the broader your wine selection at your tasting event, the better you and your guests will be able to actually taste the difference between and compare varietals, which is a big part of the fun of the event.

Drink light to dark

This is less of a beer-before-liquor, liquor-before-beer recommendation than it is a palate-pleasing one. Start your guests off with a sample of fresh white wine such as a Sauvignon blanc. Think versatile—a wine you’d want to sip on a patio anytime, anywhere. From there, sample a lush white, something that’s viscous and sits on your tongue, such as a medium-bodied Chardonnay. You’ll also want to include a sweet wine, like a Riesling or Moscato, to cover all of your taste buds.

From here, it’s most logical to progress to a rosé, ideally in the form of both a light and dark option, before moving onto a selection of red wines. While there is much variety to be had in relation to region and varietal here, make sure to provide light, smooth and bold options to showcase a range in flavor.

Pair cheeses with intention

Your friends won't just eat any kind of cheese as they’re imbibing copiously (Just kidding. They probably will. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be the right cheese).

When pairing cheese and wine, you want to match their flavor profiles. It’s important to keep this in mind so as to not eliminate the work you’ve put into selecting the wines you’re offering with a haphazardly paired cheese.

If you plan to have your guests sample a cabernet, for instance, you don't want to serve brie because the wine will overpower the taste of the cheese. Instead, pair it with something comparable in intensity. Similarly, the dominant flavor of blue cheese is best matched with a bold Zinfandel, as savory, salty cheeses are best matched with fruit-forward reds.

To not complicate your spread too much, remember this: Light reds (like Pinot noir) and sweet whites (like Riesling) pair well with any cheese. Wine Shop at Home recommends pairing Merlot with gouda and Cabernet with sharp cheddar as well.

Prepare your space to be intimate and cozy

The very act of drinking wine inspires a feeling of elegance and lavishness. As such, the space in which you’re hosting your wine tasting should reflect the same vibe. Since your gathering is on the smaller side (ahem, see tip No. 1), create the ambiance accordingly. Comfortable seating, soft lighting and a common space for everyone to gather lend to the atmosphere a wine tasting commands.

From a preparation standpoint, labels for cheese and wine aid in the education process. Providing plenty of water for guests keeps everyone hydrated. If possible, allot two glasses per person to allow guests to taste wines simultaneously. In addition, providing spit buckets is a good idea in the event that guests don’t want to consume every wine.

With these tips in mind, you’re set for a party to remember. Cheers!