Tips to make your party perfect
by Alison Dumbell
You’ve picked the date, invited your friends and now comes the enjoyable part – planning your wine party. If you are worrying already, you can stop now and follow these ideas to make your party perfect. A wine tasting party is both fun and a chance for everyone to learn more about wine. The first step now is to choose a theme for the night, followed by choosing the wines. Serving four to six different wines for the party mixing between white and red wine will give plenty of variety.
If you aren’t sure what wines to buy, I suggest going to your best local wine shop to ask for help along the lines of your theme. Pick wines you like that fit your budget. When it is the cooler time of the year you could choose some full bodied red wines, but if it is hot keep in mind people might prefer sparkling, white and rose wines. Always buy more not less when choosing the wines for the party – you can drink it later if you don’t need it on the night. Keep in mind that each bottle holds approximately five large glasses of wine or 12 small tasting portions. You should plan on having approximately one bottle of wine per person.
The menu is next. Matching the wines to the food is important for a wine dinner. There are some basic rules you should try to follow but it is important that you relish the whole experience – plan the meal with foods you and your guests will delight in! But by following a few of these suggestions, the wine and the food will come together to make the night special.
It is important not to mix spicy food with dry red wines that are higher in alcohol like a Cabernet Sauvignon. Typically these red wines go better with rich meat dishes not heavily spiced. If you love spicy food, try a slightly sweeter white wine like Riesling or a red Beaujolais. Buttery or creamy flavours go well with white wines such as Chardonnay. If the dish is higher in acidity like a salad dressing or a citrus element, choose a wine that is higher in acid too like a crisp Pinot Grigio.
Lastly, if you want to match the dessert with a wine, you should choose a special sweet dessert wine that echoes the sweetness in the food. Avoid heavily salted food as it strips out the fruity flavours in wine and bitter foods which do not match very well with wine. Try adding a rose wine to the dinner – these wines may surprise your guests by how well they can go with a variety of foods. Sparkling wine is surprisingly versatile and helps start the party off on a good note.
If you are hosting the dinner on a tight budget, you can definitely have a pot-luck style meal where each guest brings a dish (but ask them to follow the wine matching guidelines). Alternatively each guest can bring a bottle of wine themselves but you might need to assign them to bring a specific grape variety or simply white or red to keep enough diversity in the tasting.
On the night
Its a good idea to have at least two wine glasses for each guest so they can compare two wines at the same time. Have plenty of water available to rinse out your mouth and the glasses. It is also helpful to keep a bucket near the table that guests can pour out the wine, water or spit into. A basket or bread or crackers is also a good way to cleanse your mouth before trying a new wine.
You can lay out brown paper on the table in place of a table cloth and with pens write out the names of the wines with arrows pointing to the foods that you should pair them with. Leave some markers on the table for your guest to scribble their notes about the taste of the wines. Alternatively you can print out free specialised placemats with space for wine tasting notes. Its a good idea to suggest a few words your guests might use to describe the wines – this will make your guests feel more comfortable talking about wine. This can also be easily printed out. To create the perfect environment don’t use heavily scented flowers like jasmine, incense or candles because they will mask the aromas of the wines.
If it is very hot, you could freeze grapes and put them in your wine glass to keep it cooled down with out watering it down. Serve sparkling wine very cold (6-7ºC) and white wines chilled to 7-10ºC. Red and dessert wines are best served at a cool room temperature. A good order to serve the wines is sparkling first, then dry whites, fuller whites, roses, lighter reds, heavier reds and sweet dessert wine last if you can possibly manage it after everything else!
It is fun to add a game into the night’s festivities by tasting the wines “blind”. This is when you hide the bottle name from the guests and they must taste the wine without knowing what it is. Place each bottle in a numbered bag. Have guests describe the wines and ask them to write down what they think it might be. Perhaps the grape variety or where it is from or how much they think it cost. At the end of the tasting, reveal the answers – you may offer a prize to who guesses the most correctly or a wine book for the person who finished with the most wrong answers.
At the end of the night make sure your guest have a safe way to get home. It is possible they might be a bit tipsy! I hope you and your guests have a wonderful time learning about wines, enjoying the company of each other and having fun.
Good party Themes
Italian, Old World (European) vs New World (Americas, Australia, Africa and Indian) Wine, Wines under Rs 2,000 a bottle