5 Simple Steps to Hosting a Summer Wine Tasting Party

By Jeffrey M. Kralik, Ph.D.

Summer is upon us, and for me, that means it is wine-drinking season.  Okay, it is always the season to drink wine in my house, but I needed some sort of tie-in to summer, because summer is a great time to ramp up our wine-themed tastings and parties.  The kids are out of school, the boss might be on vacation, and well, no one really does any work in the summer months, so we might as well pop a few corks.

Since as long as I have been into wine, we have hosted get-togethers, dinners and tastings centered around fermented grape juice. Over the years, I have learned the five simple steps to hosting the “perfect” wine event.


Determine the degree of seriousness. In other words, are you wanting more of a party with a slew of wines to try? More of an actual tasting, as you hope to learn more about wine? Or are you interested in hosting a more formal affair so that you can get your “wine geek” on?


Choose a theme. It can be simple or complicated, but the theme is absolutely the next step. Some examples are:

Price: Select a relative price range – under $15, $20-40, over $30 – and leave it at that.

Variety: Compare the same variety – Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon – from different regions or vintages.

Region: Gather different wines from the same relative spot on the globe.  It can be as general as “France” or as specific as “Burgundy Grand Cru.” (No need to invite me to the first one, but you must invite me to the second.)

Food Pairing: “Barbecue Wines,” “Wine with Oysters,” or “Korean Cuisine.”  A word of advice:  Don’t bother with that last one; I have been trying to figure it out for years.

Of course, you could come up with something else or combine two or more themes, such as “German Rieslings under $30 to pair with Korean BBQ.”  Don’t laugh, that was actually one of my tastings.  I also strongly suggest tasting the wines “blind” which does not involve blindfolds, but rather placing each wine in a numbered paper bag and not revealing the identities until the end of the tasting.  It adds a bit of mystery into our otherwise drab existence.


Determine the number of guests. Each standard 750ml bottle contains 25 ounces of wine, which means you could have eight pours of three ounces each, about half the “normal” pour one gets in a restaurant. So, if you want to have more than eight people (don’t forget to include yourself!) at the tasting, you are going to need a second bottle of each wine.


Select the wine glasses. Ideally, all of the glasses would be the same, and you would have enough so that each guest could have two glasses, so as to compare wines side-by-side. I often try to provide two glasses per couple, since I assume they are not averse to sharing glasses, but these days, you never know.


Food selection.  If you want to be merry, you can’t just drink, you also have to eat, so providing some sort of food at the event is essential. My advice? Keep it relatively straight-forward and avoid overly spicy or vinegar-laden dishes since both will detract from the wine. It is a good idea to have the food ready and available from the start of the event.  Consuming a bunch of wine on an empty stomach is something I tried in college; that did not go so well.


That pretty much covers it, but some additional considerations include:

Have a dump or spit bucket. I know it sounds pretty disgusting, but I consider it essential to any tasting. No one may use it, but you should have it just in case.

Don’t fret too much about glasses. Wine geeks (like me) tend to freak out about the quality of the glasses, but you probably don’t want to be friends with them anyway. As long as you have enough glasses, and they are all pretty much the same, you should be fine.

Don’t be afraid to farm it out. Have your guests each bring a bottle that meets the tasting criteria. I have also had wine dinners that were potlucks, and everyone brought a dish. It all depends on how much control you need to have.

Still overwhelmed? Consult  a professional to help you. I happen to know a good one: me. Reach me at jeff@thedrunkencyclist.com.

Have fun. Remember: Wine is a beverage. A beverage.