The popularity of wine has risen significantly over the past ten years, with a rise in the pursuit of becoming a wine connoisseur. Although a love of wine is a prerequisite to become an ‘official’ connoisseur, the talent also needs to be developed, grown, and enhanced over time. With the overwhelming amount of information available on wine, the various magazines covering latest finds, and an extensive history of wine-making across the globe, it can be an intimidating subject. A great way to begin is to host a wine tasting party in your home! Organize an evening with friends and family to learn about wine basics, and begin your journey into the World of Wine as a lifetime learning opportunity. You’ll quickly learn how the rich history of the regions play a key role in wine cultivation, how to define and identify tastes and flavors on your palette, and how to pour wine the ‘proper’ way.
The first step in organizing your wine tasting is to choose from either a red, or white wine for that evening. Although you may want to do both, it is recommended to choose one to start and follow up with another session for the next time. You’ll not only benefit from a thorough understanding of the one type, but you’ll quickly learn your tolerance level for the taste. If you and the attendees are not frequent wine drinkers, this is a great opportunity to begin slowly.
The second step is to select five to six wines and note the regions. Visit your local wine store and ask to speak with a sales representative or knowledgeable staff member for recommendations. Remember, you are looking for basic, ‘beginner’ wines for now, and can move onto the more in-depth and Reserve wines at a later date.
Select appetizers and side dishes to serve. The third step after choosing red or white, will be to complement the tasting with snacks. Well-chosen snacks include natural cheese, fresh fruit, and even plain pieces of steak for red wines. For white, opt for light cheeses, crackers, and light salty snacks. The idea is to enhance the wine’s flavors, and not overwhelm the palates with a full-course meal!
Arrange meeting time, place, and date, and send out invites! Round up a fun crowd of friends and family, and do disclose the purpose of the event.
Ensure that water and soda water are readily available. This is necessary to ‘cleanse’ the palette between tasting each type of wine, so that you can truly experience the unique flavor, textures, and density of each wine. Some may choose to simply ‘roll’ the wine in their mouths and spit it out in order to taste; make sure there are plenty of bowls available for this!
Step 6: Construct comment/note cards to make note of your findings. This is a great activity for all members of your party, as it encourages note-taking on your new discoveries! It also makes sure you know what wine you now like, (or dislike) after your results. You can even set up a ‘blind taste-test’ at this point, and see who’s taste buds are most trained to identify flavors and corresponding wine.
Step 7: Keep track in a tasting log. This can be a journal, an electronic log, or any sort of notebook that let’s you remember what you have tried, and how different varieties taste. By writing these down, you can also research each brand, location, or vintage online for more information.
Step 8: Enjoy and continue researching! As you get better and more comfortable, invite your ‘club’ for future tastings, and develop plans for your next region or wine type. You can choose specific wines from one country, one state, or even one varietal and expand from there.
The key to beginning wine tasting is to learn as much as you can as you go along. You will never know every single wine or vintage, but you can learn a lot from magazines, books, and online resources that showcase signature and trademark selections. Seek out local wine bistros and stores that feature their own tastings, and you’ll also find more people with a similar interest. You’ll also learn the many definitions to describe what you experience with each wine, a key characteristic of the well-educated wine connoisseur!