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How Not to Host a Wine Tasting

Posted by perle0 on 2006-09-20 00:57:08 (10114 views)

[The Pedestrian Wine Drinker]
You may have wondered...what's the best way to host a wine tasting? What are the many steps that guarantee a pleasant and educational experience for all involved? Indeed, how can I become the perfect wine host or hostess?

There are tips we can give you that would help. But what fun would that be? Instead, we're giving you pointers on how NOT to host a wine-tasting. Follow these guidelines, and you can rest assured that your events will never be sullied by any annoying "guests." You'd really rather taste your wine sitting all alone in room with aluminum foil on the windows, wouldn't you?

First, the planning: don't do any. Things always go more smoothly when you just wing it, don’t you think? I mean, how hard can it be? Get some wine and hope that somebody thinks to bring some Dixie cups and Cheetos. However, an excellent alternative is to plan each and every single detail down to the last second, and make sure that your tasters stick with the program. I mean, really, you've put a lot of thought into elements like which wines to taste, which glasses to use, which hors d'oevres go with which wine, when to sniff, when to swirl, when to examine the legs, when to taste, how much talking should be allowed--they need to cooperate with your wisdom!

Next, getting the word out: don't! If no one knows that you're having a wine tasting, there'll be more wine for you, right? I mean, you wouldn't want all sorts of people you don't even know showing up and trying to make friends or anything, would you? What if they stole your silverware? Or if you have it outside your home, what if they steal the restaurant's silverware? No, whatever you do, don't advertise the event, especially among the wine-drinking community. They're the ones who will just drink all the wine and discuss it, when you should be lecturing those people who somehow managed to hear about it and showed up even though you were trying to limit the event to the two people at work who know nothing about wine and so would nod appreciatively no matter what you said. ("This wine has a delicate nose of old socks, and its sturdy legs indicate that it's 27% alcohol. The tannins are well-balanced with the powerful wafts of sulphur.")

When choosing the venue, pick a place that's cheap and easy. Your home is always a good choice; most people love cat hair and the slight scent of litter box that permeates. And they might help you clean up afterwards, which is nice since your place will get a lot cleaner if that happens. But you may prefer to hold your event in some public establishment, such as a restaurant or bar. Be sure not to let the management know what you have in mind, since they might not agree to host if you tell them. Better to just show up with your guests and your wine bottles; probably someone will order some onion rings and give them enough business to make up for your taking up their tables, if there are enough tables free for everyone. It's also important to choose the perfect ambience; what could be better than a barbecue restaurant? That heady scent of sauce and grilled meat goes well with any wine. And if you have it in the bar, you can add in the perfume of cigarrette smoke as well. Hey, probably the perfect spot for a wine tasting would be the bar in a barbecue restaurant…it would be like adding a dash of KC Masterpiece and some ash-scrapings from the nearest ashtray to each glass of wine, then maybe straining it through a coffee filter if you're the fastidious type. Or you can just strain the ashes with your teeth.

You should always try to serve food at your tasting, unless you want the alcohol to go farther by having people drink on an empty stomach. That can be a real money-saver, and the police will thank you for the additional revenue after everyone drives home. But if you must serve food, match your wine and food carefully. Anchovies go very well with Champagne; if you put them on top of a piece of hot dog on a Ritz cracker, they'll also pair nicely with any white wine, from a dry Riesling to a sweet Sauternes. For the reds, remember those onion rings, or maybe some of those classy pretzel nuggets with cheese or peanut butter in them. And what could possibly go better with rosé than bacon? I recommend cooking up two-inch sections of bacon and making a little sandwich by putting cream cheese with chopped olives or pimento cheese between two bacon pieces.

Next, you'll want to decide on the format. If you want to make sure your guests are well-educated on the nuances of wine by helpfully informing them of everything you want them to know, a sit-down affair works best. Be sure to use reserved seating, and place people next to others they don't know, to keep the chit-chat down to a minimum, and be prepared to assert your superior knowledge firmly should anyone challenge you. However, some prefer a less formal setting, in which wines are place strategically around the room and people wander, sampling from bottle after bottle and taking the ones they like and hoarding it in a corner with their friends. Chill the red wines well and serve the whites at a pleasantly warm 80 degrees. Don’t forget to provide little palate-cleansers for when people want to move on to a different wine. Listerine strips work well for this, and may also help to prevent trouble on the drive home, so keep plenty on hand!

Another important element: don't forget the importance of selecting the right wines. You probably want to choose a guiding theme, such as "wines with seminude women on the label," "wines named after animals" or "favorites under $5." Or you may want to make a country or a region your centerpiece—wines of Michigan, anyone? Whatever wine you choose, get plenty. If you're a bit tight on funds, you can demand that each person bring a bottle of wine of your choosing. This can provide a good opportunity to try some of the more high-end options, such as grand cru Bordeaux or 100-year-old Madeira.

It's really the little things that get noticed. If you're in a restaurant where all the glasses look the same, bring in a grease pencil so everyone can put their initials on the base of their glass. If you're entertaining at home, break out the Flintstones and Star Wars glasses (the recent ones, not the classic ones from 20 years ago that are worth real money), or use the ever-popular Mardi Gras parade cups. The different themes will help everyone to keep track of their class or cup ("I had Bacchus! You have Bam-Bam.") Make sure that you provide alternate beverages for your designated drivers, such as bloody Marys or tequila shots. You may also want to provide paper and writing implements so that your rapt listeners can take down your pearls of wine knowledge (explain ahead of time that there will be a test later to make them get serious), or you can just print up guides to the available wines and print them out for everyone to take home. Hint: if you let people take home the empty bottles, that helps to remind them of their favorite wine AND keeps your trash from filling up.

When the event winds down, make sure everyone gets the hint that it's time to leave. At home, you can pass out the Listerine strips and tell everyone to drive very slowly when they leave, so they won't swerve as much. If you're at a restaurant or bar, ask the staff to start taking away the glasses and sweeping the floor, and have them either turn on the full room lights or turn the lights off altogether. On the other hand, you could just slip out quietly to avoid the appreciative applause that will surely come and might be embarrassing. The remaining guests will make sure that the bills are paid up and the staff is properly tipped, as a sign of their gratitude to you for organizing the perfect tasting.

Once the tasting is over, relax and bask in the satisfaction of a job well done. Now it's someone else's turn to do the work; all you have to do is wait for the return invitations to come rolling in, and polish off any leftover wine and tequila. Mixed together, they make a delicious cocktail impishly called "Floor Sweepings." It's more authentic if you do sprinkle on just a bit of real floor sweepings, as a decorative garnish.

A great way to publicize your much-better-than-this tasting event is by submitting an article on


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