There are few things classier than a wine tasting party. Your guests sip on a nice Napa Valley red wine and comment on its particular bouquet. In between tastings, they nibble on fancy cheeses and fine breads and discuss the latest news in arts or politics. It’s sounds delightful!
The truth is I like the idea of a wine tasting party, but when I think of actually hosting one myself, it’s another story. I often pick wine based on the pretty label or the store’s recommendation, and when I’m done with a glass, I can tell you if I liked it or not but my review ends there. The whole thing just sounds a bit daunting.
That is, until I spoke to Marion Campbell, an independent wine consultant with WineShop at Home. She made it seem easy and fun! Your party can be as fancy or as informal as you want, and when it comes to the tasting, just follow the 4 Ss of wine:
See – Hold the wine up to a white napkin, so you can really see the variations in the red or yellow color. The wine should be clear – not murky.
Swirl – This adds oxygen to the wine, opening it up, so you can taste the wine at its best. Want to get fancy? Use an aerator. You can buy a simple aerating pourer for around $10. But a few swirls do the job as well!
Smell – Stick your nose deep in the glass – now’s not the time to worry about being rude! Then try to identify what you’re smelling. Need training? Pick up different fruit on your next visit to the farmer’s market.
Sip – At last, the step you were waiting for! Coat your entire mouth with wine, getting every nook and cranny. After you swallow, pay attention to how the wine lingers in your mouth and what happens to your taste buds. Don’t just stop at one sip. It can take two or three before your taste buds wake up. “Sometimes at first sip you might not think you like it, but on third sip, you find it's delicious,” says Campbell.
But how do you keep track of each of the wines? Campbell recommends using a tasting guide to record your experience.
Remember, the idea of a wine-tasting is to learn about what you like, so be adventurous when selecting the wines. Wines labeled as “organic” meet the organic standards of their country of origin. Unfortunately, these standards vary. And some wines that are totally organic choose not to be certified as such. So how do you wade through it all? Check out the Organic Wine Journal, which highlights organic wines from around the world.
The next step is food! Honestly, I might enjoy trying different cheeses more than the wine. Did you know that, by indentifying what cheese goes well with a wine, you can figure out what other foods pair well with it? I’m lucky enough to have an organic cheese booth at my local farmer’s market, but you can often find organic cheeses at your local grocery store or health food stores. You’ll want to have variety on hand – a soft, mild cheese (Brie, Havarti, Mozzarella); a medium hard cheese (Manchego, Pecorino, Gouda); and a blue cheese or strong cheese (Stilton, Goat Cheese).
“If a wine goes well with the brie or mild cheese, you can count on things like chicken quesadillas, shrimp salad or pasta, margherita pizza, or Chinese take-out as pairing well with the wine. If it goes well with the medium cheese, you want to think more like roast chicken, pork tenderloin, or a pumpkin soup. The stronger cheeses pair well with heavy meals like steak, pasta with meat sauce, and anything with truffles.”
Campbell also recommends keeping dark chocolate on hand to pair with red wines. Yum!
Still overwhelmed by the idea of hosting a wine tasting party yourself? Consider getting help from a consultant like Campbell. WineShop at Home is a direct sales company that works like Avon or Tupperware, but instead of a make-up demonstration, they provide guided wine tastings!
“People have me into their homes, and I pour them six different wines. We talk about the taste, the smell, and we pair the wines with different cheeses and talk about how introducing food changes the palate.”
Sounds like a nice way to learn about wine tasting before attempting it on your own. You can visit her website - WineShopatHome.com/MarionCampbell - for more wine tips and to learn more about Wine Shop at Home.
Photo Credit - Mr. T in DC