Fall party season is upon us. Many events are benefits for various worthy causes; others are parties for pleasure’s and friendship’s sake.
If you’re hosting, you can simplify the planning—and possibly wow your guests—by building the party around a wine concept. If you need to keep your costs in check, make wine assignments in advance: ask each guest/guest-couple to bring a bottle of a certain type, region or price point, in accordance with your party theme.
I came up with five ideas; here is the first:
Blind tasting: concealing the identity of the wines you’re serving, by wrapping the bottles or, if color is not a tell in your blindness scheme, decanting them, can add some geekiness to a party—can your guests distinguish a $15 wine from a $40 one, a Merlot from a Cabernet Sauvignon?—and challenge those who are savvy oenophiles.
The object of a blind tasting is to offer a range of wines organized around a particular attribute, such as:
- Price – Pick a regional varietal (Napa Cabs, New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, red Bordeaux, for instance) and offer a bottles at prices ranging from $10 to . . . $30, $50—whatever maximum you’re comfortable with.
- Type – Blindfolds required for this approach. Researchers say even seasoned wine tasters can confuse reds with whites with rosés when they can’t see what they’re drinking. I can’t speak from personal experience but am intrigued by the idea.
- Grape – You can present a range of reds or of whites, or some of each, but each bottle should be a different grape varietal. For example, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Petit Verdot, and Gamay. Who can tell which is which?
- Country – the same varietal but from different countries/regions. Cabernets from Chile, Argentina, Australia, South Africa, California. Rieslings from Long Island, the Finger Lakes, Germany, Austria. How geographically sensitive are your guests?
This approach elicits active participation, as guest-tasters weigh in on their hunches and can rank their likes, so it can be an ice breaker when people in the room don’t know each other. Be sure to organize your identification system ahead of time and label the bottles or decanters carefully.