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Hosting a Wine Tasting

Posted on 04/19/2012 by Sharon Fenchak

Raise Your Glass!

You don’t have to be a serious connoisseur to bring friends together for wine sampling. Use these simple tips to host your own wine-tasting party.

Plan Your Flights

Most tastings include two wine selections or flights—one with white wines and one with reds. Each flight should include three to six different wines. For the best results, always begin the tasting with the lightest white wine, and end with the most robust red.

Choose a Theme

For white wines, consider light and fruity options, such as Biltmore Pinot Grigio and Biltmore Riesling. Or try a mix of sparkling wines—such as Biltmore’s six sparkling wine selections. For the red wine flight, you might choose big, bold reds, such as signature Biltmore Syrah and Biltmore Château Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, or unique blends, such as Biltmore Cardinal’s Crest and Biltmore Century Red. Make sure you have at least two bottles of each wine on hand—one for the tasting, and the other to enjoy with food afterward.

Glass Act

You don’t need fine crystal for wine tasting. One wineglass of any type for each person is sufficient. Between each tasting, have guests pour out any leftover wine into a receptacle. Before pouring new samples, have them rinse their wineglasses with water and wipe them dry with a napkin. You’ll also want to make sure wines are served at the proper temperature—usually 50° F for white wines and light and fruity reds, and 60° to 65° F for full-bodied red wines. Each sample you pour should be about 2 ounces, or enough to swirl and truly taste.

The Essentials

In addition to wine, you’ll want a corkscrew, a pitcher of water, napkins, wineglasses, and a sink or wine bucket. If you’re blind tasting, you’ll also need paper bags to cover each bottle. Be sure to provide a notepad for each guest so they can take notes and rank each wine on a scale of 1 to 5—for aroma/bouquet, color, and taste.


Before tasting a wine, hold it in front of a white tablecloth or napkin to observe its color. Then place the glass rim to your nose, inhaling deeply to smell its bouquet. Next, sip the wine and keep it in your mouth for a few seconds so that it comes into contact with all your taste buds. After savoring the wine with all your senses, write down your observations about what makes it unique and what you like about it.


Have prepared food on hand, but save it until after the wine tasting. To cleanse the palate between wine samplings, offer plain crackers, bread, and drinking water. After the sampling, bring out the hors d’oeuvres, allowing friends to see how the food influences the taste of the wines. For example, a sauvignon blanc may seem acidic by itself, but delicious paired with a lemon-butter sauce.

Winemaster’s Tip: “Taste wine without seeing the label. Some people have biases about different wineries, but there are good wines at every price level, and from award-winning regional wineries you might be surprised to learn about.”

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