Wine Tasting Party

7 essentials to getting the party started


I get this question all the time: "How do you host a wine-tasting party?" Well, the answer is pretty simple: I just call over some of my friends and we get straight to business! But seriously, hosting a wine-tasting party is pretty simple. You do need some supplies, but nothing exotic, and a handful of wines of course, but there is no great trick to hosting your own fête du vin!

Wine glasses

Of course, you’ll need plenty of wine glasses for your wine-tasting party. A good glass can really make a wine come alive, so make sure you’ve got a nice sized glass; a 10-oz bowl is just about the smallest I would recommend.


If you’re in a pinch, as I frequently am, it’s perfectly OK to ask guests to BYOG. If everyone brings their own glasses then at least everyone will get to compare their own wines from the same-shaped glass (yup, it does make a difference) and you’ll have far fewer glasses to wash!

Dump buckets

I use some lovely ceramic wine coolers for my dump buckets or, as a dear friend has said, empty receptacles so that we might be able to clear our glasses of unwanted wine. There’s bound to be a few clunkers among all the bottles you are going to open and there really is no point forcing people to drink wine they don’t like, so making dumping of wine convenient is always a good thing.

Spit cups

Sorry but there's no better way to say it, we're looking for spit cups!

Depending on what kind of a party you’re throwing, and how many wines you’re serving, you might want to consider offering spit cups to your guests. Nothing fancy here: I use 16-oz plastic cups, not the clear ones -- for obvious reasons. And while I’m on that subject, the reason I use nice ceramic wine coolers for dump buckets is because nobody wants to see that stuff!

A grease pencil

Huh? Well, I could have written wine charms here -- you know, those little trinkets you dangle from your wine glass -- but what is the point? Does anyone really think it’s a good idea to associate a particular glass of wine with a particular trinket? Asking me to remember which trinket goes with which wine… well, that’s just crazy talk! With a grease pencil I can write the name of the wine on the base of the glass so no matter how crazy I get I can still identify what’s in my glass.

Tasting sheets

Since we're talk about writing things down, you should provide your guests with sheets so that they can write down their thoughts about each wine: color, aromas, flavors, texture, finish, etc. Make sure to leave enough space for sloppy writing. If you can, include the name and price of each wine so your guests only have to decipher their part of the puzzle the following morning.

Download our introductory tasting sheet.

The Wine Aroma Wheel

This aroma chart, developed by Ann C. Noble at the University of California, Davis, is an indispensible tool for those getting into wine, as well as those already chest-deep. With most of the major aromas broken down into categories and then specific descriptors, the aroma wheel turns wine-tasting into a scavenger hunt! It can be a very fun way to get all your guests involved in describing your wines.

A theme

All you need now is a theme. You can wing it and just choose some of your favorite wines, or else plan it out a bit. Try a vertical tasting: a tasting of the same wines over a span of vintage. Or how about a horizontal tasting – a tasting of similar wines from the same vintage? There are some great holidays coming up and you can even try a theme like the best gimmick wines for Halloween! Or, along those lines, how about the best wines to go with mini Snickers bars or Laffy Taffy?

What makes a great wine cellar

Learn how to set up your cellar so that you'll always have wines perfect for any party theme.

Starting a Cellar

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Mentioned in this article


  • Surely the best tasting parties are vertical - ie you get people to taste several vintages of the same wine. It's a great way to learn about how the climate of a particular year affects the wine, and how particular wines age.

    Most of our tasting parties at start as vertical. Having said that, we don't use spit cups - so most of them end up as horizontal...

    Oct 19, 2010 at 9:23 AM

  • Call me crazy, but I don't think wine tasting is my idea of fun. What I do is get a highly rated bottle from the Wine Spectator and enjoy it with some friends. No wine spitting for me!

    Oct 19, 2010 at 10:33 AM

  • Anytime you get a group of friends together with the purpose of tasting / drinking good wine, nothing bad can come of it. We should all do it more often.

    Oct 19, 2010 at 5:06 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    Here here! My sentiments exactly! And the company is more important than the wine even!

    Oct 19, 2010 at 5:21 PM

  • I just read your article on Wines of the Northern Rhone and found it very interesting and informative. A wine maker named Christophe Baron (of Cayuse Winery) is the viticultural and wine consultant for some frineds of mine that are making serveral Northern Rhone syle Syrahs (Reynvaan Family Vineyards) in the Walla Walla Valley. They too co-ferment with Viognier and Marsanne in their Syrahs and also make a Marsanne / Rousanne blend that is beautiful.

    Your article helped me understand the culture and history behind the wines from this region as well as what is now being produced so successfully in Walla Walla. Great Stuff!

    Oct 20, 2010 at 12:00 PM

  • My best tastings are the ones where my friends find a bottle of wine that we agree stays within certain price and type. This way we find best value for money and create an even playing field among friends!! May the best guy win!!
    Belize Merv.

    Oct 20, 2010 at 1:42 PM

  • Snooth User: All You Need Is Wine
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    600816 22

    I sell a blind wine tasting party game called "All You Need Is Wine". It is a great game for hosting wine tasting parties! Buy online for $29.99 at

    Oct 20, 2010 at 9:58 PM

  • Snooth User: RBKTEX
    617528 3

    I like a 2009 SEYVAL( Blumenhof, Missouri) - A refreshingly light, clean, crisp varietal wine often compared with Sauvignon Blanc. GOLD MEDAL and BEST OF CLASS winner at the 2010 Los Angeles International Wine & Spirits Competition.
    2009 VIGNOLES - A voluptuous young beauty that may arouse you with a ravishing scent and rich, ripe, succulent fruit flavors. recognized as BEST OF CLASS with a DOUBLE GOLD MEDAL at the 2010 New World International Wine Competition.

    Also; 2006 Dolcetto and 2006 Viognier from Luna Rossa , NM.
    Sauvignon Blanc - Semillon and Sangiovese from Ponderosa Winery in Central N.M.

    And finally,

    St. James from Missouri,

    Vinters select Seyval for a white
    Norton for a Red - VERY nice

    Enjoy folks

    RBK - TEX

    Oct 21, 2010 at 2:31 PM

  • Snooth User: RBKTEX
    617528 3

    Les we not forget my friends at LaVina and Tularosa Vinyards for thier great wines also, will be getting more of thier Dolcetto, merlot, viogniers, semillon wines soon.

    Oct 21, 2010 at 2:50 PM

  • Snooth User: RBKTEX
    617528 3

    By the way,
    On my way to Toronto, Does anyone know of wineries to visit in area that are worth the drive?

    Oct 21, 2010 at 3:20 PM

  • Snooth User: jennym
    183722 9

    How about giving us a link to the tasting sheets? using the "search articles" function doesn't turn up anything, but I like what you have in the illustration.

    Oct 21, 2010 at 5:02 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    Hi Jenny,

    Added the link to the tasting sheet slide!

    Oct 22, 2010 at 8:47 PM

  • Snooth User: EricMac
    132283 1

    hello from England.....

    I enjoy reading the articles and advice...but on this occasion would like to use the tasting party advice...but Gregory ,where is the link for the wine aroma wheel -on the tasting sheet slide? I can't find it....unless we are a little dense back here in Europe!



    Oct 27, 2010 at 6:12 AM

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