Choose a Theme
Deciding on the theme of your tasting will set the tone for the rest of your event and give a purpose to your planning. Is it a bridal shower, a wine dinner or just a Friday night get-together with friends and family? If you need some ideas, here are a few specialized themes to get you going:
- Morning Brunch – Sparkling wines work well, but bubbles aren’t the only things that go with brunch food favorites. Click here for more info.
- Potluck – Ask each guests to bring a bottle of wine of their choice along with a food item to match. Wine and Food Pairing Guide
- Wine and Cheese Tasting – These two have been best buds for a long time and for good reason. Here’s all you need to know about hosting your own wine and cheese tasting, including free printables! [link to subpage- see copy on Food and Wine]
- Regional Wine Tasting – Focus on wines from one designated region – like Missouri or get even more specific and highlight one AVA. Be sure to include local foods on your menu and local artists on your playlists.
- Horizontal Tasting – Taste all of the same varietal (e.g. Chardonel) from four to six different wineries. You’ll be surprised at how much they can differ from one winery to another!
- Vertical Tasting – Try different vintages of the same grape varietal from the same winery. For example: 2008 Norton, 2010 Norton, 2012 Norton and 2014 Norton. Can you taste the differences a year can make?
- Blind Wine Tasting – Brown bag the bottles or find another unique way to hide the grape varietals from your guests (aluminum foil works too). Ask your guests to guess the wine. For a more challenging tasting, try guessing the region, vintage, etc. The possibilities are endless. More info check this out this article to see what options you have for tastings.
- Seasonal Wine Tasting – Pumpkin, Cranberry, Plum, Gingerbread … there are lots of fun seasonal wines to experience.
- Dessert Wine Tasting – Pick wines to pair with your favorite desserts.
- Chocolate and Wine Tasting – It’s hard to find a better match than chocolate and wine. Satisfy that sweet tooth. Wine and Chocolate Pairing Guide
- Under $10 Wine Tasting – Ask guests to bring their favorite budget-friendly wine. There’s no need to break the bank to please your palate.
A glass of wine should be 4-5 ounces. You can get 5-6 glasses of wine from a regular 750mL bottle of wine. Factor in the number of guests, the event’s duration, and if there are other beverage options.
You don’t have to spend a fortune on glasses to enjoy wine. In fact, you can use a mason jar or water glass if you wish. But if you drink wine regularly, you may want to use an all-purpose wine glass that is suitable for all types of wine. You could also start with a basic white wine glass and a red wine glass (red wine glasses are slightly larger and shaped differently than white wine glasses).
If you want to really dive into the nuances of different wines, there are varietal-specific glasses that can make for an even more enjoyable glass of wine. For example, Riedel, the famous wine glass company out of Austria, makes a wine glass specifically for Norton and Vignoles wines. When it comes to sparkling wines, avoid using flat glasses because all that surface area makes the bubbles dissipate into the air more quickly. Use a tall and thin flute glass or even a white wine glass so you can enjoy the bubbles longer.
Temperature, as with more components of enjoying wine, can be subjective. Enjoy wine how you prefer it. That being said, we recommend the following temperatures for serving wine:
Sparkling wines are best served at 45 degrees Fahrenheit
White wines and rosés are best served at 55 degrees Fahrenheit
Red wines are best served at 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Specifics and exceptions:
- Sweet red wines are often served chilled at approximately 55 degrees Fahrenheit
- Port-style dessert wines and sherries are served slightly cool at 65 degrees Fahrenheit
- Icewines and Late Harvest dessert wines are served chilled at 55 degrees Fahrenheit
- Fruit wines are generally served chilled at 55 degrees Fahrenheit
An easy way to remember how long to chill wines in the refrigerator is the 3-2-1 rule: Sparkling for 3 hours, white wines for 2 hours and 1 hour for reds.
We’ve all been there. You have a bottle of wine you’d like to enjoy, but you forgot to chill it ahead of time. There are a few tricks to bring the temp down quickly, usually no more than 20 minutes:
- A bucket of ice, water, and salt. Using a combination of ice and water allows more surface area of the bottle to be in contact with the chilling agents (ice and water), and salt reduces the freezing temperature of the water, speeding up the process.
- Help the process along even more by giving the bottle a spin in the ice/water/salt bath every few minutes.
- Putting wine in the freezer will chill it relatively quickly, but you can speed up the process by wetting paper towels or a clean dish towel and wrapping it around the wine bottle before you pop it in. The dampness conducts and holds in cold better, and having the icy cold towel pressed against the bottle ensures that the entire surface of the bottle is being chilled.
- Try chilling a glass rather than a bottle. Smaller amounts of liquid chill faster. Pour a glass of wine and chill it and the remaining wine in the bottle. Once the glass is cold enough, enjoy, and while you sip on that glass, the rest of the bottle will be chilling down getting ready for subsequent glasses.
Everyone’s taste is different. Luckily, there is a Missouri wine for every palate! It’s quite difficult to please everyone, but you can get pretty close by covering these four bases- a dry red, dry white, semi-dry white, and a sweet red or blush. A couple of options for a good mix:
- Chambourcin, Chardonel, Vignoles, Concord
- Norton, Vidal Blanc, Traminette, Catawba
There are so many different styles of award-winning Missouri wine. Don’t be afraid to try something new, and remember rule #1: The best wine is the wine you like!
In addition to delicious, award-winning Missouri wines, these items come in handy when serving wine:
- Palate Cleansers – such as crackers or bread if you’re having a wine tasting
- Dump bucket
- Water pitcher
- Water and/or coffee for guests
- Wine charms – to help your guests keep track of their glasses
Opening a bottle of wine that uses a cork or synthetic cork closure can be a little intimidating, but it just takes a little practice to become a pro. The capsule, sometimes called the foil, is the metal or plastic covering over the top and neck of the bottle. There’s some disagreement on the removal of the capsule. Some say you should always cut the capsule on the bottom “lip” of the bottle, but many foil cutters are made to cut along the top lip. Others just say to heck with it and remove the capsule entirely. Whichever way you go about it, remove the capsule enough to have easy access to the cork. Place the worm, the curlicue portion of the opener, slightly off center and begin to screw it into the cork, being careful to avoid going all the way through the cork. Once you have the worm screwed into the cork, use the arm (or arms depending on your corkscrew) to remove the cork. There are a variety of corkscrews out there, find one that is easiest for you to use.
- If the unspeakable happens and you do get cork in your wine, simply pour it through a coffee filter before you serve it to get rid of any cork pieces. It’ll be our little secret.
Opening Sparkling Wine: First, a word of caution - when opening a bottle of sparkling wine or champagne, never shake the bottle or point the cork in the direction of another person. Hold the bottle in one hand and the cork in the other, and then twist the bottle – not the cork – keeping downward pressure on the cork until you hear a gentle pop. Sparkling and white wines should be opened just prior to serving, while red wines can be opened well before serving to allow them to “breathe” – that is, mix with air to develop their full aroma and flavor.
There is such a thing as a cork-taint. When opening wines with an natural (not synthetic) cork, it should be checked for cork taint. Simply pour a small amount in a glass, swirl and sniff. If it smells like wet cardboard, mold or your grandma’s basement it may be corked which means the wine has been exposed to TCA (Trichloroanisole), most likely through the cork itself. While harmless, it can result in the wine losing its flavor and having an off-putting odor. Simply return the wine to its point of purchase and request a new bottle.
Other wine faults and how you can spot them:
- Oxidation: Too much exposure to oxygen can cause contamination and chemical breakdowns that lead to wines losing color and flavor. Generally the best way to avoid oxidation is to consume an open bottle within 3-5 days. However, you can extend this with wine preserving tools.
- Secondary Fermentation: If there are bubbles in your wine and there shouldn’t be, it’s probably going through secondary fermentation in the bottle. This can happen due to a flaw in the bottling process. There’s not anything you can really do to fix it, but maybe research the particular wine before you pour it down the drain and make sure the bubbles aren’t intentional.
- Sulfurous Compounds: Sulfur is sometimes used in the winemaking process to prevent other flaws as it is a preservative, but it should never be excessive or overpowering. If you smell unpleasant odors such as rotten egg, burnt rubber, or skunk, the wine has a sulfur problem. If it isn’t very potent, decanting the wine may help dissipate the excess sulfur. If it’s too strong, you should return it to where you purchased it.
Except for sparkling wines, you should fill glasses only about one-third to halfway, this is usually 4-5 ounces. Much of wine’s pleasure comes from its aroma, which should be allowed to develop in the top half of the glass. To truly savor it, swirl the wine gently before inhaling its essence.
For the same reason you have salad and steak before cheesecake, dry wines should be tasted before sweet so that the sugar of a sweet wine does not impinge on the taste of a dry wine. White wines before red, and light wines come before full-bodied wines. Young wines are normally before old, as old wines tend to be more complex.
Once you’ve got the serving temperature, amount and order down, wine serving etiquette becomes fairly simple.
A few traditional rules:
- Ladies and eldest first
- Offer to refill others’ glasses before you serve yourself a refill
- Ask before taking the last pour from the wine bottle
While these rules are traditional and may impress your guests, they can be adjusted to fit the atmosphere of your event.
Decanting wine is the act of pouring a bottle of wine into a glass decanter to allow it to open up. Red wines, especially those with a good deal of tannin benefit greatly from decanting. You can decant wine for 5 minutes, up to a couple of hours. The higher the level of tannin in the wine, the longer it should decant. If you want to speed up the decanting process, you can pour the wine between two decanters or carefully swirl the decanter to increase the wine’s exposure to air.
It depends on how your event is structured, but often you start with lighter wines and work your way darker and richer as the meal progresses. Salad can be easily overpowered by a big, bold red wine, but the main entrée would overshadow a light, crisp white wine. Then there’s dessert, calling for a sweeter wine to complement it. Pairing each course of your email with a specific wine will show attention, impress your guests, and add a delicious layer of excitement to your event.
Wine is inherently complex and unique, making it an exceptional ingredient for unique cocktails. Depending on the wine you choose, you can add a sweet, sour, spice or savory component to your cocktail with Missouri wine. Find out how to build a great winetail here.
Try one of these delicious winetail recipes to add excitement to your next gathering.
Wine is a great addition to any holiday celebration. It provides a delicious beverage for your friends and family to enjoy as well as a great conversation starter. Check out our Celebrate the Seasons page to find out how Missouri wines can be added to your festivities, year-round.
Fun Activities: Add interest to any wine-focused event by having a wine glass decorating contest. Ask guests to decorate their chosen wine glass for the evening. The winner gets a bottle of wine to take home. Or ask guests to bring two bottles of wine and play white elephant. This is a great way for everyone to try new wines!
To learn more about how to taste like a pro, how to pair, how to smell and how we go from vine to wine, please click the links below.
Wine bottles, glasses and corks are beautiful on their own and lend themselves to décor easily and with limited alterations. Check out our Pinterest board for some great ideas.
Always refrigerate wine after you’ve opened the bottle, even red. Red wine will usually last 5-7 days and white for 3-5 before it’s past its prime.
Great uses for leftover wine:
- Freeze it in ice cube trays to toss into sauces and stews.
- White wine is great at removing red wine stains. Keep leftover white wine on hand for the next time there is an oops moment.
- Marinate meat with it.
- Make salad dressing with it.
- Poach fruit with it.
- Make your own wine vinegar.
One great way to keep the memories from your wine celebration is to write the date or occasion on the cork and keep the cork. You can also remove the labels from wine bottles for scrapbooking.