Host Your Own Wine-tasting Party

ESSENCE.COM Aug, 27, 2008

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Even if you don’t know the difference between a merlot and a chardonnay (hint: one is red, the other white), you can still throw a tantalizing wine-tasting party.

Here, food and wine blogger Heather Johnston has the group taste the wine.

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When Nicola Vassell, a model and an art curator in New York City, decided to host an intimate gathering for her artist, design and media friends, she chose a vino theme for ease and elegance and invited Heather over to provide expert pointers.

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It’s a party, so keep the mood light and informal. For a good crowd, consider having only up to 12 guests.

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When sampling, go from white to red and from light to more robust. Keep portions small, about two ounces. (Later, guests can have more of a wine they especially enjoyed.) Provide a story or a bit of information for each choice. Space the wines at intervals, but be sure to have guests eating throughout the party.

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“It’s the interaction of guests that gives a party sparkle,” says Johnston.

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What to Pour
Go for popular grapes—chardonnay, Riesling, pinot gris, pinot grigio, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel and merlot. Select up to six different wines: all white, all red or samples of both. Or choose all wines from one country or region, such as South Africa, Napa Valley or your home state. Tap a local wine merchant for ideas and recommendations.

How Much to Buy
One bottle will yield about 10 to 12 glasses for tasting, or 5 glasses (standard 5-ounce wineglass) for drinking.

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Take hold of the stem near the base, and make a few small circular motions. (For a spillproof method, place the glass on a flat surface.) Swirling releases the wonderful aromas and flavor nuances you might otherwise miss.

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Stick your nose into the glass, and inhale the fragrance. Try to isolate a familiar scent like apples, cherries or oak, but don’t worry if you can’t. Simply taking the time to smell always enhances the taste.

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Wine glasses are specifically designed to enhance the experience of each type of wine. For example, for red wines you could use a 14-ounce balloon-bowl type of glass, which would allow you to swirl your wine more.

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Rich Chocolate Pie and a glass of sweet Riesling make a perfect marriage.

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Food and wine belong together. For a good pairing, follow your taste buds instead of rules. But as a general gauge for matching food and wine flavors, try bold with bold, delicate with delicate and creamy with crisp. Plan on an assortment of fast and fabulous finger foods. Include an assortment of cheeses. About an hour before serving, arrange the cheese on a wooden cheese board with crackers and bread in a basket alongside.


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