There are some simple steps you can take to ensure that your wine tasting is a sparkling success.
No smoking and go easy on the cologne or perfume. Smoking at a tasting may be inconsiderate, even offensive, to many people, but it also seriously impairs the ability of the smoker and others nearby to evaluate the wines. For the same reason, avoid heavy use of cologne or perfume.
Keep talking to a minimum during evaluation. Although a wine tasting doesn't have to be a solemn occasion, it also shouldn't be a gab session, at least not until after the rankings (and scores, if used) have been turned in. There's nothing more distracting than a chatterbox, except maybe two chatterboxes, in the tasting room.
Offer a short introduction. The host should give the tasters some general information about what's in front of them. For example: "These are Pinot Noirs from the 2000 vintage; all come from Santa Barbara County. Prices range from $18 to $25."
Pour small tasting portions. Wine glasses, one for each wine, should be set out in a semicircle in front of each taster. The bagged bottles (which have been numbered or lettered by someone other than the host) should be passed among the tasters so each can pour a small sample (approximately two ounces).
Consider purchasing a pouring disc, a great, inexpensive, reusable tool that facilitates pouring in measured amounts without dripping. Made of flexible heavy foil, these discs fold into a funnel shape and fit into the bottle opening. They come several to a packet and can be found in most wine stores.
If desired, tasters' glasses can be lettered or numbered on the base with a wet-erase pen, available at most stores that sell stationery or office supplies. This avoids confusion if the glasses are moved out of order at some point. The number or letter on each glass should conform to the number or letter on the bag concealing the wine. The ink readily washes off the glass in warm water.
Hold off on eating until later. Spicy, aromatic foods, like sausages and heavy cheeses, can get in the way of pure wine evaluation. Sliced baguettes and cubes of mild, white cheese or simple water (without flavoring) are sufficient to clear the palate between sips. If desired, appetizers or a light meal can be organized to follow the tasting, or you can all sit down to a full meal; there you can resume social interaction and see how perceptions of the wines change when enjoyed with food.
Discuss the wines. After the tabulations are complete, the wines should be unbagged one by one. For added interest, move from the last-place wine to the first-place wine. The tabulator should announce each wine's group ranking and total ranking points and, if scores are submitted, the average score (add all the scores together and divide by the number of members submitting scores).
After all the results have been announced, a discussion may be held, with a participant selecting one wine to talk about, followed by another member offering his or her comments about the same wine, and so on around the table.
Before your friends go their separate ways that day, take the opportunity to discuss the next wine tasting. Who will be the host and when and where will it be?
With very little effort, your circle of friends can get together on a regular basis to enjoy and broaden their knowledge and appreciation of one of life's greatest pleasures.
By following the easy tips in this article, you too can start to become an expert in one of the world's most sophisticated and elegant cultural treasures: the art of wine.
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