Part of the fun of planning a wine-tasting party is deciding which wines to sample. Although no one will have a bad time if you take a "little bit of this, little bit of that" approach, guests will gain more understanding of and appreciation for particular wines if you choose a theme.
- By wine makers within a region: For example, you could taste a range of varietals (same-grape wines) from wine makers in the Sonoma, California, region.
- By price within a region: Pit inexpensive, midrange, and expensive Bordeaux wines against each other, for example. You may be surprised.
- By grape across regions: How about tasting chardonnays from around the world, comparing those from California, Australia, France, South America, etc.?
- By grape within the red or white categories: Try tasting different reds against each other -- for example, three merlots and three cabernets. Or different whites -- try three chardonnays and three sauvignon blancs. It's fun to see if you can discern the qualities of each grape.
- By wine type: Try popping the cork on sparkling wines from Limoux or Saumur, France; or from Spain -- and compare them to a real champagne, from the Champagne region of France.
Six to eight different wines is max for the casual party. It's best to serve about 2 ounces of each wine for tasting purposes. So, for eight guests, one bottle of each wine to be tasted should be sufficient. Keep more bottles on hand to sip with the food that comes later.
Continued on page 3: Setting the Table