Wine tastings can sound like the exclusive domain of sommeliers and wine experts, but organizing your own event at home among friends is fun and easier than you think. Here are a few basic guidelines to consider according to Jane Masters, master of wine.
How many people? As one of the 354 people to hold the title of master of wine, Masters has done her fair share of wine tastings over her career. She says an informal tasting at home should include between six and 10 people. “Below this number the wine budget per head might be too significant if you want to get an interesting array of bottles.” If you invite more than 10, you’ll probably need a second bottle of each wine to have enough for everyone to properly taste.
How many bottles? Similarly, you want to have enough bottles to taste an interesting variety but not so many that your taste buds end up having a hard time telling the difference between each wine. Half a bottle or so per person is usually a good compromise.
What kind of tasting? “It’s fun to directly compare and contrast wines from the same region or same grape variety, so make sure you have enough tasting glasses for everyone and a spittoon,” says Masters. This way you can taste how different grapes and blends are expressed within the same region, whereas looking at the variety will instruct you on how terroirs and winemaking techniques affect the final taste of a lone varietal.
How to taste? It doesn’t necessarily have to be a blind tasting, although this method does have the advantage of preventing prejudices from altering one’s judgment. If you want to go for this option, try covering the bottles as much as possible so that even the shapes remain indistinguishable. Use aluminum foil or paper bags, but make sure the bottles are wrapped before your guests arrive and white wines are chilled.
Still unsure of the dos and don’ts of wine tasting or need a little help choosing the bottles? In addition to offering a selection of wines and mixed case programs that can easily lend themselves to such tastings, Canadian wine club Opimian has a wine concierge always available to advise you. The club also organizes tastings open to non-members on a regular basis, so you can look for a little inspiration before organizing your own. Find more information at www.opimian.ca.