A Checklist for Your Next Wine Event

Have you ever thought about hosting a private wine tasting for your friends? My business manager keeps on me to publish a checklist for hosting a wine tasting and I keep telling her that it's difficult to do because so much depends on what the host or hostess has in mind. There are so many variables that it is almost impossible to say, “Follow this list and your event will be successful.” My advice is to consult with a Sommelier or other wine professional that can help you plan your event.

However, since I can't ignore my business manager, I offer the following as a simplified guide to planning a wine event:

First and perhaps the most important step is determining your budget. You don't want to plan a dinner party when you only have enough money for a wine and cheese affair. By determining your budget ahead of time, you can plan your event without breaking your bank. Once you have established your budget, you should give some thought as to the theme and style for the event in addition to the number of guests you will be inviting. Will you be celebrating a birthday? Is it a black tie affair? Are you celebrating your return from Italy? This will help later in our planning to determine the foods and wines we choose.

Some examples of theme ideas that I have used in the past and that work well with wine are:

California Dreaming

Light & Bright

Wine & Roses

Red Hot Summer

A Night in Spain

With your budget set and some thought into your theme, you can go about collecting information and determining the level of service you intend to provide your guests. Will you want someone to present and give a brief history of the wines? Or, do you want someone to serve without speaking? How many servers will you need? As the host or hostess, you should not plan on doing your own serving. You should instead relax and spend time with your guests. After all, the event should be fun for everyone, including you.

Next decide on what food you're going to serve and who will be doing the preparation. If you're having a wine and cheese event, you may wish to do the preparation yourself, which is acceptable, as long as it can be done ahead of time. However, if you're planning a wine tasting dinner, I suggest that you have it catered or bring in a professional chef.

Once your menu is set, you can choose which wines to serve. You will want to consult with a Sommelier or other wine professional to determine what wines will go best with the foods you're serving. They can also help you with the number and quantity of wines you will need. Don't be shy if you have a favorite wine you would like to serve. Let your Sommelier know and he or she can work it in.

It will also be helpful to your Sommelier if you know the wine tasting experience level of your guests. When most Americans first take up wine tasting, they tend to like the sweeter whites and rosé wines, later developing a preference for “bolder” reds. I attribute this phenomenon to the fact that most American kids that are now of drinking age grew up on soda and fruit juices loaded with sugar. Therefore, we develop a sweet palate early on, which for some of us is still with us to this day. Mind you that it's only an observation, but consider that most Europeans that didn't grow up on soda and other sugar-laden drinks prefer drier wines and, ergo, my theory. If they are new to wine, you can still introduce them to some drier styles, but be sure and include a couple of sweeter wines, as well. Some good ones would be a Riesling Auslese, a Moscato (Muscat), or a Gewürztraminer, just to name a few.

As I said early on, there are a lot of variables. If you are considering hosting an event, please give me a call. I will be delighted to discuss it with you and my initial consult is free.

Until next month,