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Two Women on Wine: How to host a wine-tasting party

An easy-on-the-budget way to have a good time

Posted: September 10, 2009 3:46 p.m.
Updated: September 11, 2009 6:00 a.m.
Lil Lepore and Shari FrazierTwo Women on Wine Lil Lepore and Shari FrazierTwo Women on Wine
Lil Lepore and Shari FrazierTwo Women on Wine
If you read the news, then you know as well as we do that the recession transformed us from a consumption-centric nation to our current scaled-back frugal state practically overnight.

While there are lovely luxuries that we hope will make a comeback someday soon, we delight in the unmistakable resurgence of simple pleasures close to home.

Hosting an at-home wine tasting party for good friends is the perfect way to reconnect and enjoy the company of others. It's also simple in its planning and easy on the budget.

In a nutshell, here's our easy step-by-step instructions for hosting a perfect wine tasting party every time. First, after settling on the guest list, we decide which wines we want our guests to experience. We usually end up with six: three red and three white, all moderately priced.

One of our new favorite wine regions is Argentina, who produces excellent reds such as Malbec and Cabernet, as well as whites such as Torrontes and Chardonnay.

Our motto is "less is more" so we keep it simple. Invitations go out via e-mail and phone calls. We draw up a list of a few simple food pairings that work with the wines we've chosen and then ask some of our guests to bring the dishes.

We supply the rest, including bread and crackers, a cheese plate, fruit and, of course, wine glasses. Pitchers of water are on hand for rinsing glasses between wines, along with a couple of "dump" buckets for discarding the rinse water or the wine. Flowers, candles and a few carefully selected music CDs add ambience.

We create tent cards naming each wine, origin, and brief description of the wine. We also print cards that offer a few wine tasting words to help guests describe the wine they are tasting. Each guest receives a note card to use for scribbling down some tasting notes.

At a wine tasting, the idea is to move from the dry to sweet or lighter-bodied to full-bodied wines: We start with the whites, introducing each wine to our guests with an explanation of its characteristics.

Later in the evening, we move on to the reds, starting with the Torrontes and finishing with the Malbec. Each "pour" amounts to an ounce or so of wine. Some folks prefer the aromatic whites, while others the fresh, spicy reds. Typically, everyone enjoys sharing their perceptions of the bouquets and flavors of the different wines.

Whether you plan your own at-home wine tasting party or enjoy a selection of wine tastings at your neighborhood wine store, remember that taste is subjective. And nowhere is taste more subjective than when it comes to wine. Even professionals and wine judges often disagree.

Wine tasting is about understanding your palate and developing your senses. What we commonly experience as taste is actually aroma, body, texture and flavor taken altogether.

So how do you begin to understand your palate? One way is to learn by doing - exploring the differences through tastings will help train and develop your senses.

An at-home wine tasting party is a perfect way to spend the evening with friends, try some new wines, and rediscover life's simple pleasures. Cheers!


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