This past weekend, my husband and I hosted our first formal gathering at our apartment in the form of a wine tasting party. We really enjoy a great bottle of wine, and we are always looking to try new wine varietals including different blends, regions and vineyards. As a young couple, we enjoy and appreciate good wine but at a reasonable price point. We often find ourselves overwhelmed when looking at shelves upon shelves of wines at our local liquor store. Trying a new wine based on label, price point, brief description and perhaps recommendation is often a gamble. Realizing that many others share similar sentiments, we decided to host a party to gather our friends, share our favorite wines and foster a friendly competition.
This blogpost represents the first of three blogposts to be issued this week that will provide inspiration including the idea, the invitations, the decor and the menu to assist you in hosting your very own wine tasting party.
Request each of your guests to bring a bottle of wine and a $10 entrance fee. Consider tailoring your event to focus on wines based on region or varietal type. Each wine is submitted to the tasting and the $10 entrance fee is placed into a money pool to be distributed among the favorites. Cover and label each wine, whether by number or by letter, and release the wines for tasting throughout the evening. Provide your guests with tasting sheets on which to take notes as they try each wine. Upon conclusion of the tasting, allow your guests to vote for their favorites in pre-determined categories and award prizes accordingly. Be sure to conclude the party by providing your guests with a listing of the wines tasted for their future reference.
Set the tone for your event by providing a formal invitation whether by mail or by e-mail.
With the increased reliance on technology across all generations, sending electronic invitations is a fun, modern way to generate buzz and excitement about your event. There are numerous websites devoted to sending electronic invitations such as Evite or Paperless Post. I personally enjoy using Paperless Post which offers both print and electronic invitations and cards. The site features a user friendly interface to design invitations and track responses and has a variety of invitation designs and add-ons suitable for all occasions including party invitations, wedding save-the-dates, thank you notes and holiday cards. Electronic invitations are delivered directly to your guests' e-mail addresses in an animated format that first begins with an addressed envelope that opens to the invitation and proceeds to the response card. See the example of our invitation below.
Paperless Post offers a variety of free and for purchase invitations and cards. With the wide variety of designs, there are numerous designs geared towards wine themed events. If a for purchase invitation or card is selected, purchases will be made in "coins" which are purchased in intervals of 20 coins for $6. The price of the invitation varies depending on the core design and other add-ons such as enclosure cards or envelope liners. As a point of reference, the invitation designed herein for our event cost $1.20 per invitation.
Differentiate your event and wow your guests by filling their e-mail or mail with something to look forward to!
WINE TASTING RULES
In order to facilitate an appropriate wine tasting, you must consider certain rules that govern the wine tasting process to allow each wine to shine. Review your wine submissions and order their release in accordance with the following guidelines:
- Dry before Sweet - Sweet wines have a longer lasting aftertaste, and thus, can make dry wines taste more bland and sour if followed immediately after a sweet wine.
- Light before Full - Full-bodied, full-flavored wines will cancel out the flavors of lighter, more delicate wines. For example, a light, dry rosé should be served after white wines but before red wines. A pinot noir should be served before a cabernet sauvignon.
- White before Red - This rule is important but should not take priority. For example, a heavy, sweet wine should still be served after dry, red wines.
If you are not familiar with how certain wines fall into the aforementioned categories, use the following list for assistance in determining the order:
- Sparkling Wine
- Riesling, Dry
- Pinot Grigio
- Sauvignon Blanc
- Pinot Noir
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Sweet (White before Red)
- Dessert Wine
- Port / Sherry
If a guest submits a white or red wine blend, look to the back of the wine bottle for the breakout of the blend percentages. Categorize the blend based on the highest content percentage.
THE AWARD CATEGORIES AND PRIZES
You are likely to get the best selection of wine by communicating to your guests that the prizes are isolated to a "Best Wine" category with additional runner up awards. Be creative and have a few secret award categories to allow for more guests to get recognition for their contributions. Consider the following award categories:
Guest Vote Categories
- Best Overall Wine
- Best Overall Wine - Runner Up
- Best White & Best Red
- Worst Overall Wine
- Most Unique Wine
- Best Label
- Love Hate (most positive and negative responses)
Having Host Categories allows you to gauge additional categories based on what wines yours guests submit. For example if you keep your event open without limitations on wine submissions, you may have a lower percentage of white wines that are less likely to win against the red wines. Therefore, you can elect to have a surprise Best White category to recognize those in that category.
The Worst Overall Wine category is fun for guests to vote on and can add humor to the event. Caution: announcing the Overall Worst Wine category ahead of time can result in guests trying to win that category. In this case, you will unfortunately be stuck with drinking a lot of mediocre or just plain bad wine.
For the prizes, allocate the cash money pool between the Guest Vote Categories with the highest percentage going to the best and the remainder allocated as desired. Have several additional prizes for the Host Categories. Such prizes can include wine bottle stoppers, aerators or wine totes. With most of our guests being from Chicago which is home to many BYOB restaurants, we elected to purchase these Built Cheers Wine Totes (pictured above) for our host prizes.
Visit again this Wednesday for Host a Wine Tasting Party: Part II featuring how to prepare, decorate and execute your wine tasting party.