Friday, January 7, 2011

4 Tips to Throwing the Perfect Wine Party

Here’s a familiar scenario, I know, I’ve lived it. You’re a wine geek. Simple. Concise. But you are anything but socially inept. In fact, you have lots of friends and family, and many of them like, no, LOVE wine – nearly as much as you do. You think to yourself, “Self! Let’s throw a wine party.” And why not? It’s a great way to expand your own and your guests’ knowledge of wine. You may even turn a few of your on-the-fence wine drinking friends into fully-fledged winos. One can hope. Follow these 4 tips to hosting the perfect wine party and you may succeed.

1. Pick a Theme

The process of choosing a theme for your party may, at first, feel a little juvenile like you’re channeling your inner 8-year-old-child, but it can also be a lot of fun. Personally, I like to start with a name and move on from there. Whether it’s “Zin-appaloosa” or “Merlot Madness” or simply a “Pinot Party”, the title of your get-together helps frame everything you’ll need from the perfect food pairings to the appropriate glassware and everything in between. Don’t underestimate the inspiration that can be found in the creation of gracefully strung together and made-up words.

A few more suggested themes:
“Single White Varietal”
“Münster Mass”

2. Pick a Price Range

Announcing your cleverly constructed theme name is easy as you’re eager to show-off your well-earned wit to your friends – you haven’t spent hours watching the complete Woody Allen back catalog for nothing. On the other hand, telling folks how much to spend can be tricky, but ultimately you’ll be better-off doing so. Nobody wants to be the jerk that brings a $10 “White Burgundy” to a “Beaune Beauties” party because you didn’t know how much everyone else would likely be spending. Likewise, you may not feel like sharing your d’Arenberg 2006 The Dead Arm Shiraz when everyone shows-up with a collection of Yellow Tail offerings to your “Awesome Aussies” party. Better to set the expected standard, clearly, up-front.

You know your friends and family, so pick a price range that they will feel comfortable with and stick to. Don’t feel bad about stretching the budget a little as your guests will be rewarded, assuming everyone steps up. Offer suggestions and be specific if your theme requires it.

3. Keep the Alcohol in Check

For a recent “Hoo-rah for Syrah!” party we had selected varietal friendly nibblies and cheeses to keep our guests from “peaking” too early. Providing spittoons, although unseemly to some, can also help prolong the insightful conversation and buys you a few hours before the group intelligence dissolves and someone uses the proverbial “I get a distinct aroma of fermented grapes” joke. Although classic, it is a strong litmus test of the collective blood-alcohol level.

Make sure your guests have a safe ride home and be prepared for overnighters. Send everyone off with a bottle of Gatorade to abate the cursing of your very existence the next day.

4. Don't Forget the "Party" in Wine Party

Unless all of your friends are big wine geeks as you are, don’t forget it’s a party first! Don’t overdo it with talk about the presumed Brix levels at harvest or the use of Hungarian oak during “élevage”. Stick to the basics and don’t correct people. If one of your guests smell “rain” don’t interject with the meaning and correct pronunciation of the word “Petrichor” – you’ll look like a pompous ass and the wine world has enough of them. Wine should be enjoyed communally, not dictatorially. The folks whom you are hoping to turn from “wine likers” into “wine lovers” will be turned off and may return to buying Baby Duck or Black Tower – and it will be YOUR FAULT!

Follow these tips and you’ll have a blast. There’s really nothing better than having loved-ones bring you lots of good wine to open and enjoy.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011


  1. Brilliant suggestions! I'm going to pass your piece on to a local fellow (Abbotsford) who is interested in hosting a wine-tasting party to celebrate his wedding anniversary.



  2. I hosted a "Mock-Necks and Merlots" party recently, where we were to sample BC Merlots paired with appropriate cheeses, while trying to look snobby. There were 5 Merlots offered, ranging from $10-50. The object was to: 1. Rate the best pairing 2. Select your favorite 3. Try and pick the order from least to most expensive. Only one person of the 12 selected the most expensive wine as their favorite (Osoyoos Larose).