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Hosting a wine tasting is a fun way to learn about wine. Planning is the key to a successful event and I will give you some of my favorite tips.

Get organized

I always consider my guests tastes and try to be prepared, this will help you pick your theme. I tend to push the palates of my guests. Send them down a familiar path and lead them to something new and exciting.

Items you will need include the proper glasses, a spit bucket, corkscrew, palate clearers, water and a table or presentation area. Glasses should match the type of wine. Never serve wine in a glass with a lip around the top edge. This makes a difference in the taste of the wine and how it rolls into your mouth. You can also provide guests with a score sheet.

With the invitation, instruct guests not to wear cologne or perfume. Don't burn scented candles, or have potpourri sitting around. This interferes with your ability to smell and taste the wine.

Decide on a type of tasting

Your options for a wine tasting are nearly limitless. Varietal tastings are using the same grape variety from different growing areas. Horizontal tastings would be a Merlot from the same winery, but different vintages. Old world vs. new world would compare European to American wines.

Blind tasting requires each participant wear a blindfold before the taste. Just kidding. That's a joke. But, I was asked at my last blind tasting by one of the guests if they should bring a blindfold. During a blind tasting, the bottles are covered so when you are tasting the wine, you aren't influenced by the bottle or the label, or where the wine is from.

Selection and Presentation

After you have selected your theme, it is time for shopping. Most tastings include 4 to 7 types of wine. Each bottle holds about 25 ounces and a taste equates to 1 ounce or 25 servings per bottle. There are pourers on the market that can help you pour the proper amount. Make sure you store the wine in a cool place like your basement. See the wine temperature chart.

You will need educate your guests about each wine when you present it. Look on the bottle's label because it has a lot of information. Go to the wineries website and see what they have to say about the wine and search for a few other sources on the Internet. I always include the vintage, price point, grapes used, alcohol content, aromas, flavors, where it was produced and I like to find something personal about the wine or vineyard.

The Tasting

Thirty minutes before the tasting, I open the bottles and take the whites out of the refrigerator to bring them to the proper temperature. Reds need some time to breathe. Depending on my audience, I start with proper tasting techniques. Each guest should swirl, smell, and then taste. Glasses should be held by the stem to not increase the temperature of the wine by your hands. Always start with the lightest first, whites before reds. I like someone that pours for me while I do the presentation. Begin the pouring and speaking about that wine's attributes. Provide a spit bucket to help reduce guest's alcohol intake. Once you notice a few empty glasses, you are ready for the next wine. Have bread or crackers passing along with water to cleanse the palate and continue with the presentation of the next wine.

I have extra bottles after the tasting and serve food that accompanies each wine. Guests can taste their favorites again.

Wine temperature chart

This list shows what wine styles should be stored at what temperatures (degrees Fahrenheit).

Armagnac, brandy, cognac: 66

Full bodied red wines, shiraz: 64

Tawny port: 62

Medium bodied red wines: 59

Amontillado sherry: 57

Light bodied red wines: 55

Full bodied white wines: 54

Medium bodied white wines: 52

Rosé, light bodied white wines: 50

Vintage sparkling: 48

Fino sherry: 46

Non-vintage sparkling: 45

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