Ten Holiday Wine Tasting Party Ideas

Wine tastings are a great addition to your holiday gatherings. They create interesting conversation and it’s much more fun then serving just ONE wine! There are countless ways to set up tastings, including simply asking every guest to bring their favorite bottle of wine to share. Cloak all bottles, and have guests rate them in order of their favorite AND have them try to identify the wine they brought! For more inspiration, here are 10 of my favorites tastings:

SINGLE VARIETAL THEMES

Varietals are wines made from a single grape, like Cabernet, Chardonnay, Marquette or Frontenac. Wine tastings using only a single grape, afford a great opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of and appreciation for that varietal. Varietal tastings need not be “cloaked”. Indeed, I find that tasters learn far more when the bottles are not covered. Here are some of my favorite varietal tastings:

1. Same Grape – Different Growing Regions: Cabernets from the US, Australia, South Africa & South America

2. Same Grape – Different Wineries: Marquette wine from 5 different Minnesota wineries.

3. Same Grape – Different Price: Merlot $5, $10, $15, $20 & $25. Extra credit if you buy these all from the same growing region!

4. Same Grape – Different Styles: This is fun to do with Minnesota grapes. Because they are still so new, there’s tons of experimentation going on, so it’s pretty easy to find 5 different styles of wine made from the same grape. For instance you could serve a Young Dry Red Marquette, an older, barrel aged Marquette, a Sweet Red Marquette, a Rose´Style Marquette, and a Port Style Marquette.

ALL ONE COLOR THEMES

This is a great way to learn the varietal differences in grapes. You start by choosing which color, Red, White or Rose´ and then which grapes. I like to keep the purchase price of the wines pretty consistent and I like to purchase wines from regions that I feel do a particularly stellar job of vinting that varietal. Here are some of my favorite line-ups:

5. All Whites: Chardonnay from Chablis, Pinot Grigio from Italy, Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, Riesling from Washington State, LaCrescent from Minnesota.

6. All Reds: Cabernet from Napa, Merlot from Bordeaux, Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, Malbec from Argentina, Marquette from Minnesota.

GUESS THE PRICE

Always a fun option, this type of tasting must be CONDUCTED CLOAKED! Buy a range of wines in different prices, but the same general sweetness level and see if people can put them in order, from least to most expensive. I like to use blends for this tasting, and I stick with either all red or all white blends. Price points I like to hit are Under $5, $10, $20, $30, $50. Here are some suggested wines that approximately hit these price points:

7. Guess the Price Red Blends (from low to high): Yellow Tail Big Bold Red, Apothic Red, Freakshow Red Blend, SolMani Red, The Federalist Dueling Pistols

8. Guess the Price White Blends) from low to high): Big Sipper White Blend, Sokol Blossom Evolution, Parley Lake Lakeview White Blend, Tablas Creek Blanc, Los St. Michel Chateanneuf du Pape Blanc

VINIFERA VS HYBRIDS

If you want a wine tasting experience they’ll never have in France . . . this is the way to go! It’s a great way to educate you and your guests on the similarities and differences between vinifera and hybrid wines. This is fun to do cloaked. May take more effort to source these, but worth the effort:

9. Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc & Carlos Creek Winery Petit Ami | Lemoreaux Landing Chardonnay & Carlos Creek Prairie Star | Forge Cellars Classic Pinot Noir & Carlos Creek Reserve Marquette

RATE YOUR FAVORITE

Easy to set up and lots of fun, this involves buying 5-6 wines, cloaking the bottles, and letting each guest rank them in order of their favorite. You can set this up with all whites, all reds, all varietals, all hybrids or a mix of anything!

10. My favorite “Rate Your Favorite” tasting: I like to pull up the latest Wine Enthusiast Best Value Wines, and choose 5 wines, any style, any grape, all in the same price range – but none that I’ve never tried before! A fun way to find a new favorite value wine!

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Tami Bredeson

Tami Bredeson

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