How to organise a wine tasting

When you arrange to meet your mates for an evening down the pub, no-one calls it a ‘beer tasting’, do they? Well if a ‘wine tasting’ is done right, it’s pretty much the same as a night in the pub, but with lots of different interesting wines to try instead of the same old lager all night. And with a decent bottle of wine from a shop costing the same as 3 pints in a pub, it needn’t be any more expensive.

The term ‘wine tasting’ has a lot of baggage attached to it. It conjures up an image of unpronounceable Burgundies being sipped by a monocle-wearing bastard and his purse-lipped wife. Anyone got a better term? I prefer ‘wine sampling session’ or ‘wine drinking’; it’s more accurate. Maybe just tell people you’re going to open a bunch of fine wines and they’re invited. Now who wouldn’t like the sound of that?

It’s easy:

1. Find a venue

Try to find a friendly local restaurant or pub that will let you bring some bottles with you if you order a bit of food, or maybe for a small charge per bottle. Failing that, do it at home if you have enough room, but you’ll need enough glasses to go around and you’ll have to supply a bit of food or people will get hungry (some decent bread or a few pizzas tends to do the job). Couple of jugs of water would also be a good idea.

2. Invite some friends

If there’s just two or three of you, splitting the cost of a bunch of bottles would be more expensive, and you might end up with a lot of unfinished wines. Don’t let it stop you though, you can always finish them off over the next couple of days. Between 6 and 16 people is ideal. More than 16 people or so and a bottle won’t go around everyone.

3. Think of a theme

It can be as simple as a grape variety or winemaking region, but the more creative the better. Either ask everyone to bring a bottle, or, even better, buy an interesting range of bottles yourself and get everyone to chip in. Call an independent wine shop/your local Majestic/ etc and ask them for suggestions; get them to email or print out some info on each wine; then organise delivery. Stick any whites, rosés, sparkling or sweet wines in the fridge when they arrive.

4. Tell people what they are drinking

In all likelihood the wines will be new to most people, and they’ll want to know a little bit about what they are drinking. On the night, just taste 2 or 3 at a time, read out a bit of the info that the shop supplied or you found on the internet, then have a break so people can go back to talking about The Voice/Champions League/Prometheus/the person they work with who is a dirty stop out. When you finish the final group of wines maybe get people to vote on their favourite, which ones they liked or didn’t like, or which ones they would buy again. You might want to supply pens and paper so people can write down which ones they liked. But they can always photograph the label with their phones.

Most nights down the pub are fun, but hardly nights to remember; a night round a friend’s house tucking into a selection of fine wines would be. Obviously you can never replace the pub, but getting stuck into a few bottles of decent wine can be just as entertaining, if not more.

If you’ve got any questions, just use the comments box below.  Do let me know about any that you put on and how they go. I set up the occasional informal sampling session myself; if you want me to add you to the mailing list, send me an email – mw(at) Equally, if you want me to set up and host a special tasting for your friends/family/colleagues, get in touch.