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How to host a wine tasting

Planning your tasting

You might like to think of a theme based on country or grape variety - like Chardonnay from around the world or something that makes suitable drinking for that time of year like heavy reds and fortified wines in the winter or fino sherry and rosé in the summer.

Choice of wine
Depending on your theme, the tasting should move from the lighter sparkling wines, through to white wines, then to red wines and finish with the more powerful fortified wines. If tasting in winter, you might like to finish with a port.

Make sure your white and rosé wines are chilled for at least 3 hours - overnight in the fridge is best.

Red wine should be opened 2 hours in advance.

Tastings start well with a glass of sparkling wine - it helps people relax - and it's also the lightest of the wines.

When pouring, ensure you have enough to go round so sometimes it's better to have one person to pour. Remember the width of the glass is deceiving so be judicious!

Four stages of tasting

There are 4 stages to focus on after you've poured your wine into a decent-sized glass, remembering not to fill it more than half-full.

First, take a look at the wine to check that it's clear and bright. The intensity and depth of colour will also give you a clue to its strength although wines do alter with age - whites become darker and reds tend to fade.

Swirl the wine in the glass, then stick your nose in and sniff. This will tell you whether or not the wine is faulty and reveal its character. If you are tasting a Chardonnay, for example, this step will reveal whether it tastes of citrus or tropical fruit.

Next, take a sip, hold it in your mouth for a moment and swallow. This will tell you more about the texture or 'mouthfeel' of the wine - whether it's sharp or smooth - than what we think of as the flavour. If you want to maximise this experience, suck air over your tongue as you hold the wine in your mouth. You will make some very professional-sounding slurping noises, and it is this technique that helps to release the wine's flavours and aromas.

Finally, remember to take note of any aftertaste. Good wines have a flavour that lingers on and on so enjoy it before moving on to the next mouthful.

Things to remember:

  • Ice and ice buckets - to keep some of the wine or champagne cool
  • Glasses - Ideally you'll need fresh glasses for each wine. Don't forget you can borrow wine glasses for your event free of charge from Waitrose. Glass loan.
  • Pads and pens - to take tasting notes
  • Spittoons - as your guests may not wish to drink
  • Water - to refresh the palette between tastings
  • Wine pourers - to make pouring easier

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