Most of us have had the pleasure of attending a wine tasting at a winery, vineyard or grocer. Next time, take these wine tasting tips and invite your friends and family over for an elegant evening of sipping and savoring.
To set up a wine tasting, first pick as broad or specific a theme as you like. Beginning tasters might select several wines from a different varietal (grape type) to demonstrate the differences between them. Another option is to choose several wines made from a single varietal to show how a grape type can yield different-tasting wines depending on where the vineyards are located. More experienced tasters hold "vertical" tastings, where wines of a single vineyard or winery in a range of vintages are sampled to determine the best vintage years.
Typically, you'll want to start your tasting with white wines, from dry to sweet; then progress from light to full-bodied reds. Also, it's ideal to start with younger wines and move to mature. The general rule of thumb is to serve two ounces of wine per tasting.
The number of wines served at a tasting varies, but eight to 10 is typical. To avoid being influenced by perceptions based on label information, hide the identities of the wines by covering the bottles with foil or placing them in pretty wine bags for a decorative touch. This is called a blind tasting. Use numbers or letters for identification, including the type of wine, vineyard, year and a description (usually found on the wine label).
It's important to provide drinking water and bland bread or crackers so people can cleanse their palates between tastings. Make sure that the crackers don't contain much salt, and don't serve any other food during the tasting because it can confuse your taste buds.
When people are still arriving, set out light fare, like mild cheeses and fruit. After the tasting is over, set out simple desserts.
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Next, be sure to lay out paper and writing utensils to be used as tasting cards. As guests taste each wine, they'll want to take notes, jotting down information on each one, including the aroma, appearance, nuances and flavors. They should also rank each wine as they taste -- noting which they liked best, and which they liked least.
Also be sure to place out containers or "spit buckets" for spitting or dumping excess wine for those who don't want to swallow every sip.
When everyone has finished tasting the flight, it's time to discuss the wines. Don't hesitate to express your opinions. Even inexperienced tasters can be uncannily accurate when it comes to wine.
Scoring the wines or naming favorites will yield a group consensus on the best wines of the bunch. The results can be surprising, such as when the least expensive wine takes top honors.
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