Spring is prime time for al fresco wine tastings
As we move into spring and early summer, it’s time to take our parties and wine outdoors. This is usually the time for planning picnics and barbecues. But around the Cork Guy’s house, we look forward to our spring and summer wine tastings with friends and family.
Our wine tastings have evolved over the years, and my bride and I have learned a few things about preparing for them. Late afternoons usually work well as a time for wine tastings. We usually begin at 3 p.m. We find Saturdays to be the best for such events. And we have found that a guest list of about 12 to 16 people is about right for one of these parties.
The guest list, of course, can be a mixture of couples and singles. We have found that people who truly enjoy wine and are curious about learning about the beverages being poured turn out to be the best guests. We usually ask each person coming to the party to bring an inexpensive wine — $10 to $20 a bottle — that they like. Remember, everyone’s palate is different; what you like is what you like. The host of the party will buy from four to six bottles for the featured event of the party, which is a blind tasting. One bottle of wine can easily be poured in small amounts for 12 to 16 people.
Set a theme for the wine tasting. In a horizontal tasting, the host chooses a type of wine, say all merlot, cabernet, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, etc. Four to six wines for comparison and rating is about the right number. Choose several brands, regions, countries that are all priced about the same. The Cork Guy is all about reasonably priced wines crafted well. We try and choose an assortment usually priced around $20 to $25.
Before the event, we bag the wines and number them. I usually open the wines and let them breathe for about two hours before the blind tasting, letting the wines acclimate to the room temperature.
You’ll need to either purchase or create a wine-scoring sheet to mark down the impressions of the wines, body, bouquet, finish color and taste. These can be found at party stores or ordered online. We ask guests to rank each bottle and give their impression of the wine. It also can be fun trying to guess where the wine is from or maybe even the year, for those feeling adventurous.
For food pairings, you’ll want to prepare and provide simple hors d’oeuvres for the guests. Mild cheeses and crackers are a good choice. They help neutralize the palate between wines. Small sandwiches and vegetable platters also are very nice. We usually also provide fresh fruit and some popular salads.
As the party moves forward, small desserts, nuts and chocolates are a nice touch. Sometimes, we also provide port wines to accompany these treats.
Finally, you’ll want to collect the scoring sheets and tally the scores. Then return scoring sheets to each individual and announce the results. We usually then review the wines chosen to taste and review them each for our guests. This involves discussing the region, the vintner and other interesting facts about the wines consumed.
We then ask our guests to make themselves at home enjoy the rest of their time with us. What a way to spend time with friends and have a memorable afternoon. I cannot wait until this year’s gatherings.
The Cork Guy
The Cork Guy is a local connoisseur of all things wine whose taste buds are especially adept at unraveling the mysteries of the vino world. We hope you will enjoy his visits to Coast Monthly. You can reach the Cork Guy at firstname.lastname@example.org