Themes and Ideas for a Cheese and Wine Party
To throw a wine tasting party can be a great way to try out new wines with family or friends. So how do you host a wine tasting that’s a total success? Well there are actually a lot of ways to plan a fabulous cheese and wine party at home. However, the very first thing you’ll have to do is determine what kind of wine tasting party you want to host.
While a home wine tasting party is fun no matter how you plan it –how can you go wrong with some tasty wines, some snacks, and good company?– sometimes adding a wine tasting party theme can make things a lot more interesting.
Below, we’ll take a look at several wine tasting party themes that you can choose from. But if you’re looking for more general advice on choosing wine for a party, you’ll find it here.
How to Throw a Wine Tasting Party with a Theme
Setting up to throw a wine tasting party. There are lots of different themes you can choose when you throw a wine tasting party at home. These themes not only make the whole experience a little bit more fun for your guests, they can also make choosing wines and snacks easier for you. And let’s face it, with the approximately 3 bazillion choices out there, anything that narrows it down will help.
Some fun wine tasting themes are:
Old and New. This event shares classic old world wines compared to new emerging wines popular in wine culture right now. You can choose them all from one particular wine-producing region, or go all over the world.
Girls and Guys Wine Tasting. Throw a wine tasting party that’s also a competition! Have the guys and the girls blind taste different wines, and see which group does better. A great way to get together with your best friends and learn about wine together.
Cheese and Wine Party. Perhaps the most classic of wine parties, here you sample pairings of various cheese with wine. Take some time to research which cheeses go best with which wines, and tell your guests to pay attention to how different cheeses affect the flavor of different wines.
Price vs. Quality Wine Tasting. In the wine world, price doesn’t always make for a great wine. At this event, you’ll try a few higher end wines against similar wines from more common labels. You can choose either to make it a blind tasting to see if your guests can tell the difference, or simple let everybody enough the different range of wines.
Blind Wine Tasting Party. This can be a very fun way to throw a wine tasting party. Your guests are never shown the wine labels. As they try different wines, they can rate the flavor, aroma, etc. on voting cards. If they think they know what wine they’ve tasted, they can try guessing that too. Some people make a wine tasting party game out of it– a competition that can be a ton of fun.
A Bit of the Bubbly. Champagne tasting can be a little more expensive than some other types of wine parties, but it’s a great option as a special occasion party (anniversary would be one example). I’ve played this one on New Years Eve and had a really fun time!
Wine Brewing Party. Pick out a class of wine and do your research or get an expert to come in and teach everyone how to brew that wine at home!
A Wine Tasting Party Warm Up
When everyone arrives, it’s great to have a wine trivia game. Come up with some questions about wine, wine drinking, and wine making, and separate your guests into teams to answer. This acts as an icebreaker and again focuses on the wine. Want to raise the stakes? Pick up a nice bottle of wine as a prize for the winner.
Planning Your Wine Tasting Party
The most important planning element to consider when you throw a wine tasting party is, of course, your menu! This whole evening will revolve around the wines and foods you’ve chosen, so they need to be chosen with the most care.
Choosing Wines and Foods
Of course, the types of wines and cheeses you choose are going to depend greatly on what kind of wine tasting party you’re planning. If the highlight, for instance, is on wine and cheese together, be sure to choose a complementary cheese to go with each wine. Either way, be sure to choose wines that cover a wide array of flavors, bodies, and types. If too many of your wines are too similar, your wine tasting party might end up a little boring.
If your party is going to go on for a long time, you also want to make sure your guests are well fed. Cheese is great, but you’ll also want to offer up some party appetizers. Hot appetizers are great, but cold appetizers tend to be simplest.
No matter what food you serve when you throw a wine tasting party, you need to be sure to have a few mild cheeses and some crackers or plain bread on hand. They’re a great way to cleanse the palate.
What Kinds of Wines You Need
Not sure how to get started? For a casual wine tasting party with about 12-15 guests, you’ll want to taste about 4-6 different varieties of wine. There are several different ways you can go about making you choice… but be sure to keep your theme in mind. These are:
Horizontal Wine Tasting: Tasting one variety of wine of the same year from several different wineries in a region. Or try one variety of wine from several different regions around the world.
Vertical Wine Tasting: Tasting several different varieties from a single winery.
Wine Tasting by Country or Region: Is there a wine country you haven’t experienced enough? Set up a tasting of the wines of Spain or Chile, with a wine from each region or of each variety.
An Overview Wine Tasting: If it’s a casual tasting with casual wine drinkers, do an overview of the most popular white and red wine varieties. Go to my Choosing Wine page to learn a bit more about the most popular red and white varieties.
When you throw a wine tasting party with an “Overview” theme, you’ll generally choose from the following all-star varieities:
* Cabernet Sauvignon (red)
* Pinot Noir (red)
* Merlot (red)
* Syrah or Shiraz (red)
* Chardonnay (white)
* Riesling (white)
* Sauvignon Blanc (white)
* Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio (white)
How Much Wine do you Need?
To make sure you have enough wine, you want about 2 ounces of wine per type, per person. 3 ounces if your plan on serving fewer than 4-5 wines.
Tasting Your Wines
Getting thirsty? Now comes the best part of a wine tasting party: tasting your wines! Read on for a few tips on how to go about it:
Progression of Wines
When its time to start tasting the wines you’ve chosen, you’ll want to start with dryer white ones and slowly progress to sweet or light red wines to the full bodied red wines. Within a certain kind or body of wine, you’ll also want to taste from young vintages to older ones. And don’t forget to use palate cleansers like plain bread and sparkling water!
How to Taste
When you throw a wine tasting party, another important step is teaching your guests the most crucial elements of wine tasting: Look at the wine, it’s color and clarity. Smell it. Let the wine aerate by swirling it in the glass. Smell it again, and notice how the aromas strengthen. Try to see what notes you can smell in the wine, from woods and spices, to fruit scents, to strange, surprising aromas. Then, finally, taste it (and, if applicable, try the suggested food to go with it). Taste again to see how the food changes the flavor of the wine, and how the wine changes the flavor of the food.
Some cheese and wine parties are just about enjoying the wines and giving your opinions. But you can also give people wine scoring cards or pages to use. Here, they can write down what they do or do not like about a wine, and give it a score of 1-10.
Last but not least, you’ll also want to have a wine and food list handy to give your guests as they leave. This way, they have the information they need if they really love a particular wine, and can refer to it at a later date. You could also send a post party email sharing people’s reactions to the various labels and pairings.
Wine and Food for a Party Table
Decorating for a Wine Tasting Party
The decor you choose when you throw a wine tasting party can be as unique as the theme itself. Giving the room a feel of the old world with rope wrapped Chianti bottles (made into candle holders), napkins featuring grapevines, or anything else you can find at 2nd hand stores to round out the ambiance is fantastic.
But remember that the wine is the star of this show. The decorations simply pull different senses into it. Don’t forget the glass charms so everyone knows whose glass is whose (if possible gift these as a favor!).