11/30/2016 03:27 EST | Updated 12/01/2016 02:58 EST

How To Host A Wine Tasting Party

If you enjoy wine, why not expand your palate? For wine enthusiasts, a terrific way to try a variety of wines - without breaking the bank -- is to host a wine tasting party with friends in your own home. It is a fun and educational way to try different styles of wines, while spending quality time with friends.


On location at The Grange of Prince Edward County winery & vineyard

It was during a 2014 visit to Geneva, Switzerland, when I was there as a travel writer covering a festival, that I became interested in wine after tasting delicious some wines from the Lake Geneva region. So I enrolled in a Wine Specialist certificate program at George Brown College to learn more and expand my travel writing.

I since interviewed female winemakers and began to conduct small educational wine tasting at the end of my talks. This weekend, I conducted an educational "blind tasting" for 20 yogis at a "yoga and wine" workshop. And I've discovered it is both relaxing and fun.

And so, a wine tasting is great for a girl's night in, or celebrating a friend's birthday, or a good excuse just to get together. It can be done simply, at a minimal cost, with some planning and organization.

Here are tips on how to conduct a wine tasting party:

1. Start with a theme: Determine an overarching theme for the wine tasting. For instance, will you be comparing wines from different regions of the world? New World vs Old World wines? Different styles? Personally, I like comparing wines made with the same grape from a cool vs warm climate.

2. Invite wine-loving guests: The best guests for a wine appreciation night are, of course, those who appreciate wine. Keep the group to a small gathering, no more than 8 or 10 people to keep it manageable. Ask your guests in advance if they prefer white or red wine, so you have an idea because some people have preferences or allergies.

3. Try a blind tasting: Cover the wine labels by either keeping the bottle in the paper bag it comes in, or use a nice decorative paper to cover the label. This is a fun way to get your guests engaged and guessing at what they are drinking. At the end of the tasting, reveal the wines.

4. Set expectations and explain the process: Before you begin, let your guests know what they can expect and the process you are going to take them through so they understand the game. Be sure to inform them, in advance, of how much alcohol they will consume over the course of the evening (e.g. one or two glasses in total).

5. Get the right materials: Each of your guests should have a water glass, spit cup and a clean wine glass. Keep water jugs handy. Also provide paper and pens if you want them to take notes.

6. Keep the food simple: The easiest food to compliment your wine tasting is a cheese platter, so you can focus on the wines, unless you are doing a "food and wine pairing" experience. Stay away from spicy foods or strong smelling dishes that will overpower the wines.

7. Consider décor: If you wish to go all out, get some nice fresh cut flowers and candles (but not scented) for the table.

8. Summarize the results at the end: Whether you are doing a blind tasting or if guests know what they are trying, summarize the tasting with results such as overall impressions, favourites, and so forth. Pull out your computer and try doing an online shopping experience together.

9. Provide a list of the wines: At the end of your tasting, provide the guests with a list of the wines they tasted, including price and where to buy. Or, at the end of the tasting, put all the wine bottles together on a counter so guests can take photos of the wines for reference.

10. Be Responsible: Be a responsible host and ensure your wine-tasting guests are responsible, too.


Enjoying the wines of Switzerland's Lake Geneva region

Considered hosting a wine tasting party. It is a fun way to experience different wines and share an evening or afternoon with good friends.

Want to discover quality wines at affordable prices? Follow my new Instagram account @ShannonWineSpecialist.

Shannon Skinner is the host/producer of ExtraordinaryWomenTV, a radio show host, inspirational speaker and author, who lives to travel and discover fine wines. She occasionally hosts wine tastings for groups in Toronto. More about her adventures at Tweet to her at @Shannon_Skinner.

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