Spice up your wine life!

Have your nights in with friends fallen into the same old dull routine? Maybe that routine is stuck in the Sauvignon Blanc or Shiraz rut when you busting to try something new. You can always spice things up by hosting a wine tasting event and it is so easy that you will wonder why you have not done it before. Here are a few easy tips to start you off:

Themes can make the night all the more interesting & the wine choice easier. You might pick something easy like ‘It’s got to sparkle!’  Or you could designate a particular region or country or a varietal or even a particular celebration.  Don’t limit yourself. If you are keen to try those new wines from Argentina or to rediscover Chardonnay, then do it! Perhaps you are getting married & want to choose wines for the wedding …. the list is endless.

What wines?

After good friends, wine is the next most important ingredient! At least 4 wines of different price points (unless you have chosen an under ‘$you name your price’ theme) make the night interesting. I say four because there is always a risk that there will be a dud or two – faulty or just something no one likes.

Don’t go just for the most expensive wines either. There is plenty of pleasure to be found in any price point as a general rule of thumb. I have often poured a $9 – 20 wine for someone who declares that they never drink anything that costs less than $30 or 40 only to have them ask for more.

Why not make it an occasion by sending out invitations to your event? To make it even more fun, ask guests to bring something to suit the theme. That way, there will be plenty of surprises all round as you never know what may turn up.

How to serve them?

Unless you are addicted to washing up, you can get by with just one glass to taste with unless of course you have bubbles in the line up which require a flute or at least a Riedel Champagne glass. It is nicer to have glasses that suit the wine as many a delicate aroma can be lost in a glass too large or the wrong shape (for more information on glassware, go to Wine Diva)

The secret is to have the wines lined up from the lighter to heavier wines. For example: have your Rieslings first, followed by Chardonnays, followed by Pinot Noir & Tempranillos, and finishing on Shiraz, dessert & fortifieds.  What’s so secret about this? Well, I recommend that you taste everything before you let anyone else near them – just to make sure, you know.

The reason that you serve them in order/ or write a number on them so that they can be tasted in order is to make sure that the wine tasted first do not overpower the wine tasted next. Just like you can lose the delicacy of a Riesling too large a glass with too large an opening, so can you lose it if you have just tasted a big oaky Chardonnay or worse, a Shiraz! The Riesling will taste quite neutral & skinny compared to the delicate floral with linear minerally acid if it was tasted first.

Want to do it blind? A friend of mine uses flight socks (washed of course!) Alternatively you can use brown paper bags from the liquor store or anything that will cover the labels & preferably up to the neck of the bottle. The whole point behind blind tastings is that your senses are not distracted by the label & you get more from the wine.  If you do this kind of thing often, you could go a step further & buy a black tasting glass to really challenge yourself.

At this point, it can get combatively competitive & you might want to keep it lighthearted by asking your friends to pick the order of the wines from a list rather than asking them to get into an indepth discussion about what a wine might be. It is up to you, but even I avoid the party trick kind of event where you have to pick the grape, vintage, price & vineyard.  Too much like my wine exams to be really fun!

Finally, there is plenty of information available about the wines that you have chosen on the night so it is a nice touch to have something available just in case someone wants to read up.  You never know, you, or your stuck-in-a-rut friend, might just find a new favourite wine.

Just in case you are still stuck for inspiration here is an example just to kick you off:

Theme: ‘Bubbles anyone?’

Wines:

Rococo Yarra Valley NV Rose $17

Chrismont La Zona NV Prosecco $22

Yellowglen Perle Vintage $22

Paulett’s Trillain Sparkling Riesling 2010  $20

Gosset NV Grande Reserve  $90

Brown Brothers Moscato Rosa 2010 $13

Or

Theme: ‘Alternative viewpoint’

Wines:

Zontes Footstep Savagnin $18

T’Gallant ‘Grace’ Pinot Grigio $28

Lark Hill Gruner Veltliner $40 or Mitchelton Airstrip MRV $26

Running with Bulls Tempranillo $22

Kilikanoon Prodigal Grenache  $40

Pizzini Il Barone  $43