Friday How To Series: Wine Tasting With Friends: How To Organize, What To Bring To The Table

I’m starting a new series on this blog as I move into a new phase of my wine life, entitled “How To…”. This first post is about wine tasting and I would love to hear others opinions on this theme so please chime in, if you have the inclination.

I think about this issue a lot both if I’m doing an event for someone else, organizing a tasting for myself or studying for a wine exam.  If I am having a tasting with friends I think about what our goals are: to have fun, to learn something about wine, to test pairings with different foods. Mostly I think about what we collectively want out of the evening.

If I am organizing an event, I think about what the participants want out of the evening and their level of knowledge. I try to bring something new to the discussion, a grape, a region, a wine or a pairing but not so much information that they don’t remember what they have tried. I also try to leave them with materials on which to write notes and to bring home so that they remember what they have tasted.

If on the other hand I am studying, then things get more focused. A vintage, a grape, a region is usually the theme. What I am trying to do in those sessions is to profile a style in my mind. Perhaps I am tasting wines from a region that encompasses both modern and traditional styles of a certain wine. I will include both in a tasting but enough of each to firmly fix what would be a “perfect expression” of that style of wine in my mind.

This leads me to a second part of this topic, how many wines to taste at the same time. I find 12 wines a great number to pair and ponder, discuss and contrast in an evening. I also like to taste in pairs which enlivens the discussion for all.

Lucky for me, I am invited to taste wines with Gregory Del Piaz  from Snooth and his friends on a pretty regular basis. Greg is a fabulous taster as are many of his friends and he is very generous with wines from his cellar. Last night we tried a number of Chateauneuf-du Pape from the 1998 vintage.

Through the experience I reinforced what I know about Chateauneuf and how I think about those wines, all of which will help me with some future wine plans that I have in the works. We tasted in pairs and while not all of the wines showed their best, the evening was fun and helpful. My favorite was a Chateau Fortia although I think others had different preferences. It was a root day and I actually think that had something to do with the wines not showing their best.

What I also loved about the evening was listening to what people had to say and what their experiences were with these wines and other Chateauneufs. I like to taste wine with people who have more experience of a certain region than I do. With Greg, I’m in luck. He tastes more wine than anyone I know so I’m always happy to hear him wax poetic or rant about a certain wine or region. Thank you!

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