Hosting A Winter Wine Tasting

Posted by Annette Bellisari on



Winter months are a great time to have friends over for a winter wine tasting and share in some food pairings. No matter what your wine preferences may be, we at Bellisari’s have a product for you. Keeping gourmet convenience in mind, each spread label includes a wine pairing for your ease of entertainment.

Balsamic, Shallot and Black Garlic Spread pairs with Chardonnay

Calabrian Pepper and Sweet Tomato Fennel Spread pairs with Red Zinfandel

Blistered Jalapeno and Fig Spread pairs with Light Chianti Classico

Blue Cheese, Honey and Shallot Spread pairs with Riesling

Wine tastings don’t need to be stuffy, boring or complicated. You can turn any event into a wine tasting: birthday parties, bridal showers, or even a neighborhood progressive party. There are a variety of types of wine tastings you can go with that can make it fun or educational. The main objective is to put your guests at ease and to remind them there is no wrong answer when it comes to tasting wine. Here are a few different format options…

Theme Tastings

For example, throw a Tuscan wine tasting where you can explore the wines and foods of that region.

Blind Tastings

A blind tasting works best when you want to compare different varieties of grape such as Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Shiraz, and Pinot Noir. It can add a bit of fun to these wine tasting party ideas because it gets your guests more involved. This can work well as an ice breaker or for parties with a large numbers of guests. The wine labels are hidden and guests try to identify the country, grape, and perhaps the price point from the appearance, aroma, and taste of the wine.

Non-Blind Tastings

Non-blind wine tastings work well for more relaxed, informal tastings where the objective is just to taste and enjoy the wines, or for when combining with a seated dinner or buffet. As with a blind tasting you could explore different grapes varieties, or you could compare the same type of grape from different countries or vintages to see how different they can be. The advantage of a non-blind tasting is that knowing more about the wine, such as the country, flavor profile, and a little history about the winery, can often add to your guest's enjoyment of the wine.

Price Wars

One of my favorite wine tasting party ideas is a variation on a blind tasting. Make half the wines affordable everyday wines and the other half more expensive fine wines. Have everyone taste the wines blind and rank them in order of price from low to high, along with their reasons and which they preferred. You might be surprised to find expensive wines ranking low and vice versa. 

Now that you’ve got some wine tasting party ideas, here are a few step-by-step tips to go with them.

Taste in the Correct Order

The order in which you taste the wines is important. Start with dry and move to sweet for the whites then proceed light through to full-bodied with red, younger to older. If you are holding a blind tasting for larger numbers be sure to number each bottle so guests know which order to taste them.


Start by holding the glass (preferably over a white table cloth) tilted away from you to examine the color. Try to pinpoint the shade of white or red. For example, is the white wine a straw yellow, yellow-green, or gold color? Or is the red wine a ruby red, red-brown, or purple color? Then study the opacity. Is it dark or watery? Clear or cloudy?


First, swirl the wine in the glass for a good 5-10 seconds. This will release the aromas. Put your nose to the glass and inhale deeply. What does the smell remind you of? Can you identify any fruits, flowers, herbs, spices, or even more unusual flavors such as chocolate or oak?


Next, take a sip but don't swallow the wine. Instead let it swirl around gently in your mouth. Think about whether it's dry or sweet, light or heavy, thick or thin, and creamy or crisp. Then move onto trying to identify the flavor profile, in the same way you did with smell. Can you detect fruits, spices, or a woody taste?


Swallow the wine and think about what sort of after-taste (or 'finish') is has. Do the flavors linger or disappear quickly? Would you describe it as light-bodied (watery), medium (milky), or full bodied (creamy)?

Regardless of which theme you decide to apply to your wines tasting party, here is a basic list of things you'll need.

Choose 4 - 8 different wines to taste

The recommended amount of each wine for a tasting is two ounces per person. So, one bottle of each wine will serve up to 12 people. I think six wines is best (perhaps three white and three red) as that's about enough to keep people's attention—anymore and it can become hard to distinguish them all from one another.

Wines glasses should be clear

Guests need to see the color clearly, especially if it's a blind tasting. Make sure the glasses have a stem (so the wine isn't warmed by cupping the glass in the hand) and a deep enough bowl to be able to swirl the wine around 

Pitchers of water

Unless you have enough glasses to provide everyone with a fresh one for each wine, just provide pitchers of water to rinse glasses after each wine.

Dump buckets

You'll need to provide dump buckets for people to pour any left-over wine away before moving onto the next one. These can also double up as buckets to dump the water into when rinsing glasses in between wines.

Ice Buckets/Decanters/Corkcicle

Decant your red wines a few hours before. For white wines most people chill them in ice buckets, but this often chills them too much and you end up masking the flavors. To keep wines at the optimum temperature, use a Corkcicle. It's a handy little gadget that you insert into an open bottle to cool the wine from the inside out 

Cork Screws

Always have a backup cork screw. Guaranteed it will break when you need it most. 

Palate cleanser

If you're taking the wine tasting seriously, provide plain crackers (nothing flavored) or pieces of bread (nothing grainy/salty) such as baguettes which will help cleanse the palate in between each wine.

Glass identifiers

If it's a light hearted wine tasting party, there are lots of different novelty wine charms you can attach to the wine glasses to help guests identify which glass belongs to whom. 

Tasting menus

For non-blind tastings it’s quite nice to provide a simple tasting menu which introduces each wine with some background information such as the country of origin, the flavor profile, and perhaps some background on the winemaker.

Flavor profiles

For blind tastings, provide some notes explaining the flavor profile for different grapes to help steer guests in the right direction.


You can use bags for blind tastings to wrap each bottle and hide the label.

Score Cards

For blind and non-blind tastings, make some homemade score cards to rate and make notes on each wine.

Wine tips are from Matt James and

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