Wine is Liquid Art. I’m suggesting you think of it exactly like that. You may walk through a museum and observe a painting in any manor that you choose: from simply saying, “I like it” to critiquing color, technique and style. Whether you are having friends over for a wine tasting or a wine and food pairing planned, here are some of my favorite tips on hosting a wine tasting at home, followed by entertaining ideas.
Tips For Hosting a Wine Tasting at Home
Most of us drink our wines at the wrong temperature. I like the 20/20 rule: Put your red wines in the refrigerator for 20 minutes before serving and pull your white wines out of the fridge for 20 minutes before serving. This brings the wines to “cellar” temperature not “room” temperature, which is too warm. Of course if you have a proper wine fridge, the wine should already be fine.
Aerator vs. Decanting
I have a clear preference. It is important to help a wine “open up” by infusing oxygen. Simply opening the bottle does not do this, as you are only exposing about a quarter size area of wine to air. Aerators serve this task especially well, as you can pour an ounce through and taste the difference for yourself, and judge whether you like it better with or without. Decanting on the other hand is a commitment. You need to pour the wine in the decanter hours before serving without any assurance “hours” is what the wine needs. Although decanters can be quite lovely, they rarely seem functional – they take up a lot of room on the table, they are difficult to pour from, you have to clean them later and my guests usually want to see the label of whatever it is they are drinking. However, decanters are good for older wines to gently pour an older vintage leaving sediment in the bottle and the clarified wine in the decanter.
Ideas for Entertaining with Wine
Different wines, same food
Plan a meal; invite each of your guests to bring the wine they think would pair best with the menu you’ve planned. Allow everyone to taste two or three wines with each course. You can each be the judge as to which makes the best pair. There is no right or wrong answer here; it is all about discovering your own preferences. (The only down side is you’ll need a lot of glassware!) You can also ask the producer to make recommendations as to what food would go with their wines; they may even have a recipe or two to share. Sommeliers are also a good recourse – ask the one at your favorite restaurant.
Same wine, different glassware
It is amazing the difference a glass makes! This is one of my favorite party tricks. Open a bottle you know and love, pour it into three or four different glasses. Use one specifically designed for the wine (Riedels are my favorite – pronounced Ree-delle), a complimentary glass you received at some wine tasting, a seltzer glass and any other wine glass you have on hand. Give them a couple of minutes in the glass. You can cover them if bugs are an issue.
Vertical Wine Tasting
Open two to five bottles of the same wine (same winery, same vineyard) from different vintages. You can get vintage recaps from NapaVintners.com and get cooperage information from the winery. Compare color, and viscosity. Take note of the aromas, opening flavors, what appears on the palate and then count how long the finish lingers. For Trotter 1/16 Wines, I always say the grapes are the “meat” of my dish and I use barrels as my “spice rack”.
Same varietal, different…
Select a few bottles at different price points or AVA’s (American Viticultural Area) or barrel programs (i.e. American oak vs. French oak).
No matter how you choose to explore and share wines, it is all about you! There are no right or wrong answers; not everyone will agree on which work of art would be best in each room of the house! Remain open minded, sip, savor and enjoy your company.
Stephanie Trotter Zacharia
Winemaker, Co-Owner Trotter 1/16 Winery