This winter season, we’re all spending lots of time at home. So, it’s time to cozy up and get to tasting some amazing wines! Who says you can’t enjoy wine tasting at home? I’m going to tell you all you need to create the perfect at-home wine tasting experience.

Keep it small and cozy

Small groups are the best groups. For one thing, small groups make planning and hosting easier. Next, we need to do a little math. A bottle of wine is typically 24 ounces. So, you could pour 12 two-ounce tastings per bottle. As soon as you're over 12 people, things get more complex and more expensive for the host. That being said, 12 or less is ideal so you can identify how many back up bottles to account for each wine that may require re-tasting or if you want to provide a heavier pour. Also, you don't want to taste more than 8 wines, as your senses will become fatigued, and you'll lose some of the fun experience.

Pick a theme

With so many wines to choose from, choosing a theme helps everyone focus and more easily compare one wine to another. Here are a few themes you can consider:

Local Wineries:

I’m a huge proponent of supporting local businesses and when it comes to wine, it’s fun to better understand the flavors and varietals from your local area. Pick a few wines of the same style from a few wineries and sip away!

Style:

Maybe you’re curious why a ‘dessert wine’ is ‘desserty’. Rieslings are also a fun varietal to taste through, as this varietal is unique in that it can be made bone-dry, or super sweet as an ice wine. Taste a variety of styles that you’re curious about and find out what makes each wine unique from the others.

Potluck style:

If sticking to a theme makes you feel boxed in, ask your guests to bring a few bottles and see where it takes you. The best part of having each person bring a bottle adds more variety to the tasting. Plus, the host saves money on buying bottles of wine, which is a win-win if you ask me. I love having a potluck style night with a specific varietal theme: everyone bring a Malbec, or a red blend, or a wine they think pairs with a certain recipe. Then make that recipe and have everyone try all of the wines and rank them!

Once you’ve picked a theme, make sure you conceal the bottle labels. And if you want to nerd out over the wines you’re trying, write down your observations. This helps everyone better articulate their thoughts and comes in handy when remembering details later.

Serve it up best

It’s important that you can smell and taste the right things in your wine, so I’ve got some tips on how to serve it best. Now, this can vary depending on the specific style but, generally speaking, sparkling wines should be served at refrigerator temperature, and reds at cellar temperature, which is 60-65ºF. To achieve this, stick the red wine in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes, then open and serve.

Palate cleansers

To get the full flavor of the wines you’re tasting, cleansing between tastes is important. Water or bland crackers are perfect to have between tastings. I recommend saving sultry pairings like cheese for after the tasting as they can significantly alter the wine’s flavor profile. This doesn't apply, though, if you are choose the theme where you pair with a specific recipe. It's also a good idea to have coffee beans on hand for you to smell. Your olfactory senses can become fatigued, so this is a great way to refresh them!

Talk about it

Lastly, leave some time to talk through each of the wines as you go along to hear any opinions from your now sommelier friends. Compare tasting notes, thoughts and opinions on each bottle. If you went the blind tasting route, after everyone has their thoughts, remove the foils for the big reveal. Maybe even try your hand at storytelling because each wine has a story to tell! Share your stories about the wines you select and get people excited to taste them.

Nothing tastes better than post-study vino so, now is the time to break out that dazzling charcuterie board and get the party started.

-Natalie