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How to Host a Wine Tasting

So you're thinking of hosting your own wine tasting. What a great idea! It's the perfect way to split the cost of several bottles, learn more about wine, and hang out with fellow wine lovers.

But how exactly do you set up a wine tasting?

To start, you'll need to decide on the theme of the tasting. Do you want to compare different varieties of red wines (Tempranillo, Syrah, Merlot)? Different wines from the same region (Italy, for example, which makes Sangiovese, Barbera, Nebbiolo)? The same grape variety across different regions (for example, Sauvignon Blanc from California, France, New Zealand)? The same grape variety from the same region across different price points (a California Cabernet that's $15, $40, $100)?

Once you've established your theme, it's time to gather the materials. For everyone participating, you'll need a wine glass and a notebook and pen for recording notes. You'll need the wines, of course, and you'll also need some bags to cover up the bottles. Paper bags are fine to use. It's always a good idea to taste wines blind because the lack of preconceived notions will open up your mind. You might find that you're not such a Zinfandel fan after all, or that you prefer the $15 bottle of wine to the $100 bottle!

Some optional materials: If you're including more than four wines in your tasting, you may want to have a spit bucket handy, so the participants will continue to have their wits about them as they taste. It's also a nice touch to serve a palate cleanser, such as plain water crackers, during the tasting, so people can reset their taste buds between wines.

Just before the tasting begins, have someone who isn't participating open up each bottle and bag it, marking each bag with a number. (This way, you can also join in.) Then let the tasting begin! Pour a small taste of wine No. 1 into everyone's glass and have them swirl, sniff, and sip it, then jot down their notes on everything, including color, body, mouthfeel, flavors, and finish. What are its notable characteristics? Don't discuss these things out loud yet — just write down your thoughts for now. Maybe rank the wines according to preference.

Continue with each bottle until everyone's had a taste of all the wines. Then it's time to trade notes! Share what you wrote down and see what your friends had to say about the same wines. Reveal each bottle's identity and discuss whether that affects your perception. Then pour a second round of each wine to see how they taste now that you've got more information and opinions on each of them.

And that's all there is to it. Have fun!

Here are some suggestions for a Sauvignon Blanc tasting across different regions:
Coeur Sauvage Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc
Uenuku New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
Zeste Central Coast Sauvignon Blanc
Sterling Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc
Hirondelle Appellation Sancerre Controlee (Did you know that Sancerre is Sauvignon Blanc that's specifically made in the Sancerre region of France?)

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