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Wine Tasting Group Information.

Hosting a wine tasting group is one of the best ways to develop your palate and your wine knowledge. If after reading this page you would like the necessary documents (wine score sheet, alphabet sheet, score total sheet - All in Microsoft Excel format), Click here for the wine tasting documents (Microsoft Excel format) and it will download to your computer.

Planning The Tasting

  • Number of People: A manageable tasting group is best with six to nine people. Choose a regular day and time each month to hold the tastings. We hold our tastings on the first Tuesday of every month.
  • Set a Budget: Based on the number of people, the number of bottles and the chosen wine, decide the wine budget. Agree that no-shows will be required to pay for the tasting. You can have everyone bring one bottle, but it is recommended that one person purchase all the wine. This will allow the purchaser to vary the prices of the chosen bottle and still be within budget. Having one purchaser also allows all the wine to be stabilized a day before the event so the temperature of each bottle is the same. Our tastings range from $15 to $30 per person.
  • Decide the Wine: Six to eight wines is plenty. Pick a tight, focused theme (see samples below) and make them easy for the first few tastings. We usually choose the same vintage, varietal and region for our tastings. Match the wine to the season (heavy reds in winter, light wines in summer).
    Option: Tastings of the same varietal from around the world are very educational.
  • Research the Varietal: Read about the varietal before the tasting begins. Janice Robinsonís book "The Oxford Companion To Wine" is an excellent education on wine varietals.
  • Ringers: It is fun to throw in a wine that falls outside the parameters of the tasting to see how the wine rates against the others. Throwing a Bordeaux in a Cabernet tasting makes for an interesting tasting.
  • Once in a Blue Moon: Including two bottles of the exact same wine in a tasting is always interesting to see the results.

Preparation

  • Place Setting: Each place setting should have one glass for each wine, the wine score sheet, alphabet stickers for each glass, spit cup and pen (See photo link below).
  • Stemware: Quality glasses are one of the best investments a wine enthusiast can make. Each glass should have a minimum capacity of 10 ounces (to give you room to swirl). A "Bordeaux-style" wineglass, with a bulb-shaped bowl that tapers slightly toward the top, is usually best. And make sure the glassware is sparkling; soap residue, dust and grime ruin wine. Each person should bring one glass for each wine tasted. Each taster should have all matching glasses as different styles of glasses can change the taste of a wine.
  • Blind is Best: The host should help everyone leave preconceptions at the door by concealing each bottle in lettered brown paper bags. Remove the capsule and tape the bag up to the top of the bottle neck.
  • White is Best: A wine's appearance reveals much about its grape composition and age. Good lighting is essential, as is some sort of white background-the tablecloth, or a sheet of white paper so the color can be judged.
  • Wine friendly food: Avoid spicy, powerful flavors. A bite (and sniff) of bread should refresh a tired palate. Try to sample the wines once without food, then revisit them with food - the differences can be astonishing. Cheese, crackers, fruit and bread are good choices to serve.

At the tasting

  • Don't Over Pour: Remember that you're tasting, not drinking. 1.5 ounces suffices for that first impression while leaving enough for a second go-round.
  • Varietal Description: Give a short description about the wine you are going to taste. Give history, where produced, how much is produced, blending information, typical tastes.
  • Talking: During the tasting we talk about everything except our opinions of the wine we are tasting until all the wines have been judged. Having someone say, "This wine is terrible" makes others feel uncomfortable about giving the wine in question, an unbiased score. We usually taste wines for about 30-45 minutes and then collect the score sheets.
  • The Score Sheet: Write comments about the nose, taste and finish of the wine in the description area and give the wine a score using the Wine Spectatorís 100-point scale. The 100-point scale allows you to judge the wines based on what the wine should taste like, not necessarily against the wines in the group. This allows you to repeat the tasting with a different set of wines (with the same characteristics) and judge them against the earlier tasting.
  • Tally the Scores: The host then tallies the scores and prints out one sheet and returns to the group. The host then announces the last place wineís letter, total score, average score, and what each person gave the wine (noting if it was a high or low score for that person). Usually we start with comments from the person who gave the wine the lowest score, then the person who gave the wine the highest score, then everyone else. No matter what wine level the person has, each taster has a unique perspective on the wine. I find I have learned the most about wine by listening to what others think about the wine. It helps you pull out flavors that you taste, but can't decide what flavor it is. Listen, and you will see the wines in a new light.
  • Go Back to the Score Sheet: Add the wine information to the sheet to correspond with the letter and print out a sheet for each person.
  • Easy Does It: Pace yourself and remember that it's no crime to spit good wine. Drink responsibly.

Sample Tastings

The goal of the tasting could be to judge wines from a particular vintage to guide buying decisions, or it could be an educational tasting of wines from different regions around the world to learn about a particular varietal. Below are some of the successful tastings I have attended over the past few years;
  • Northern Rhone
  • Southern Rhone
  • White Rhone (Viognier)
  • Red Bordeaux
  • Napa Valley Cabernet
  • West Coast Cabernet
  • Sonoma Valley Cabernet
  • Cabernet or Bordeaux under $25
  • Russian River Pinot Noir
  • California Pinot Noir
  • West Coast Pinot Noir
  • French Red Burgundy
  • French White Burgundy
  • Vintage Champagne
  • NV Champagne
  • German White Riesling
  • Alsacian Wines
  • Sancerre
Educational Tastings
  • Guess the red wine (Each taster brings a bottle of red wine)
  • Sauvignon Blanc from around the world
  • Syrah, Shiraz, Rhone from around the world
  • Northern Rhone vs Southern Rhone
  • Left Bank vs Right Bank Bordeaux
  • Regional Bordeaux wines
  • Champagne Comparison: Rose, Brut, Blanc de Blanc

Click here for wine tasting photos.
Click here for wine tasting documents (Microsoft Excel format).


Enjoy!
If you have comments about wine tasting groups, e-mail me nmonnens@winerelease.com and let me know.


Thanks

Neil Monnens

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