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How to host a wine tasting party

Another page has a manual on wine tasting. Here are basic recommendations for setting up a wine tasting event. They are organized chronologically:

  1. numbers and location;
  2. themes and invites;
  3. catering;
  4. tasting;
  5. closing time.


Numbers and location

Tasting room of Château Cantenac-Brown, a Bordeaux

Tasting room of Château Cantenac-Brown, a Bordeaux
© 2007, by Ron Layters (license)

The first step is to consider how many people you would like to invite. If the idea is to taste the wine, a bottle can be shared among 15 (up to 20) persons. Therefore it would less efficient to have around 4 persons or around 22 persons. In other words: between 8 and 16 participants is excellent for a quiet session. Having more than 30 persons is only a scaling problem.

Once you have a notion of the number of guests then you can look for the location. It should be quiet. You must decide if the people will be standing or sitting. A restroom is necessary. At this stage you book the room.

Themes and invites

As a second step you can decide of a theme: Italian wines? Only red wines? Chardonnay? You can brainstorm with another participant. You can find ideas by looking up the list of main wine regions.

Then you can invite people and give them the date, location and theme. Ask them to confirm or infirm: you will want to assess how many are coming so that you can invite others and estimate the food amount.

If guests can sleep on the site, tell them. You can also organize taxis for the way back.


Here is a list of things to book in advance of the actual meeting: tables, chairs, plates, one big glass per person , knives and forks, paper napkins, paper tablecloth, two ice buckets, dump buckets.

Girls taste, me drinking

Girls taste (me drinking)
© 2007, by Lynae Straw, (license)

Do I really need dump buckets (or spittoons)? Yes you do. While many of your guests will simply drink the wines, there will be some who wish simply to taste a particular wine, spit it out and go on to the next wine. There will also be times when a guest simply doesn't like a particular wine and thus can dump their glass without feeling embarrassed. Book up to two dump buckets per taster.

Optionally provide pens and paper for those people who would take notes. You could list the wines being poured, accompanied by notes on the origins and grape varieties.

Just before the party prepare bread (mandatory) and other food (optional).

Wine tasting

Boys taste

Boys taste
© 2007, by Lynae Straw (license)

Pour one wine into all the glasses. Have people sample the wine. Propose that they comment their tasting (colour, bouquet, flavours). Insist that they use their own vocabulary.

Then have people eat (bread if you are serious). Have attendees taste again and discuss.

Then you proceed to pouring the next wine.

Typically, when tasting wines, you will want to keep the sweet wines for the end of the session.

Closing time

At wine tasting parties people may linger on discussing for quite some time.

If there is wine left in some bottles you can propose that each guest leaves with a recorked bottle.

If possible invite guests to sleep on the site or to call taxis for their way back.

Have a nice party!


Wine weekly has another take at throwing a wine party.

Have you read my primer on types of wines (per variety and district)? Or my summary of storage conditions for aging?


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