If your dad considers himself something of a wine connoisseur, then hosting a DIY wine tasting for Father’s Day could be just the gift you’re looking for. Follow our simplified guide to hosting a wine tasting to perfect the art of serving the right wines with the right food, in the right quantity.
“Running a wine tasting at home is easy and fun, if you know a few simple tricks for how to set it up,” says Sharyn Foulis, drinks training specialist and also a member of the Dan Murphy’s wine panel.
The secret to running a great wine tasting is to “compare wines side by side”, she explains.
“There is no better way to understand what a cabernet tastes like than to compare it directly to another red, say a shiraz. So your first challenge will be to source some suitable glassware — at least two or three glasses per guest — as this will let you put together pairs or flights of wine to compare. The glasses do not need to be expensive, but should be clear, so you can compare the colour of the wines, and curve in at the top, to better capture and hold the aromas of the wine.”
You don’t need a lot of supplies other than good glassware, says Gonzalo Burgos, chief sommelier at Gallagher Hotels. “The most important supplies to have are good company, good conversation and an awesome view!” So, with your stemware sorted, you can then set about sourcing your wines.
How many wines should be served at a wine tasting?
While there are no hard and fast rules, Peter Nixon, Dan Murphy’s wine panel and drinks specialist, says three to four wines is a great start for at-home wine tastings. “You can try two reds and two whites, each with different varieties that contrast each other and give your guests something to talk about,” he suggests.
How long should each “tasting” last?
“As a rule of thumb, you should allow 30 to 40 minutes per wine, to allow for an introduction, tasting, discussion and food pairing notes,” says boutique wine distributor, James Atkinson. Water should be supplied, too, he adds: both for rinsing the glasses and to allow your guests to cleanse their palate prior to the next wine.
How much wine should you serve?
The average serving size for a wine tasting is only 30 millilitres, according to James — which is a little under half a standard glass. “If you keep to around 30 millilitres, you can get around 10-12 glasses per bottle, and you won’t need to go through your whole collection in one night!”
What foods should be served at a wine tasting?
A purist would suggest plain crackers or artisan breads “to minimise conflicting tastes on the palate”, Peter says. “The creaminess of the cheese is a good counterfoil for a wine’s acidity,” he says. “But you can always start on these and move to a greater diversity of tapas or finger foods.”
James adds that the aim of the game is to strike a balance between the wine’s characteristics — fruit, acid, alcohol, sweetness and tannins — and the food’s components, including ingredients, manner of cooking and taste.
“If you want to know what I mean, try a rich chardonnay with a chilli and coriander steamed fish. The spices will cause the wine to taste bitter, which is not something that anyone wants. Conversely, the astringent tannins in a bold shiraz will strip fatty flavours from your tongue and ‘cleanse the palate’ after rich red meat.”
Expert picks: Which wines should you sip at your wine tasting?
Steal: “The medium-bodied Franklin Tate Estates chardonnay from Margaret River, Western Australia, for its nectarine, oak and creamy mouth-feel,” Peter suggests. It retails for $14 at Dan Murphy’s.
Savour: “The Oakridge 864 chardonnay from the Yarra Valley, Victoria, at $60 is about the best example of modern Australian chardonnay you can find,” Peter says. “Simply world-class.”
Splurge: Leeuwin Estate’s Art Series chardonnay has been described as “Australia’s best chardonnay”. Judge for yourself: This drop sells for around $90 a bottle.
Steal: It’s not quite Penfolds Grange, but Penfolds Koonunga Hill cabernet sauvignon — priced at $14 — is a delightful red in its own right.
Savour: The Chris Ringland Reservation shiraz from the Barossa, South Australia, is a must at $49 a bottle, according to Peter.
Splurge: The 1990 Reserve of Chris Ringland Barossa shiraz is a “big, rich sumptuous Aussie shiraz”, Sharyn says — and it retails for a tiny $1,199.