How to Start a Wine Tasting Group
By Alyssa Rapp
Alyssa J. Rapp is the Founder & CEO of Bottlenotes.com, the premier online wine community where wine enthusiasts come to learn about wine, share tasting notes, and buy wine. Alyssa is also the author of Bottlenotes Guide to Wine: Around the World in 80 Sips.
One of the many silver linings of this macro-economic climate is that it’s inspiring many of us to spend more time at home. And re-engage old hobbies or pick up new ones
There’s no better passion to indulge than wine. The beauty of starting or continuing the wine journey is that the more you learn, the more you realize that you don’t know, so it’s an awesome hobby hard to quench. Best of all, learning about wine can be done in the comfort of your own home and in the company of good friends. Up to 15 guests can enjoy a “taste” of each bottle of wine- and 4-6 wines make a true tasting.
If you’re really interested in learning a lot, you can even sign up for the Jetsetters Wine Club by Bottlenotes, where we’ll send you to a different region in the world. Your wine tasting “kit in a box” will arrive with tasting notes, pairing suggestions, and as of July 2009, even an educational wine video featuring me and my business partner, Kim Donaldson tasting the wines along side you! http://www.bottlenotes.com/wine-club/jetsetters
Whether you sign up for a Bottlenotes wine club or simply leverage the advice of your favorite wine steward at your local retail shop, my top ten recommendations for organizing a monthly wine tasting group are as follows:
- Set the date and location one month in advance; book people for 90 minutes so they think they can squeeze it into their schedule; they’ll end up staying 2-3 hours. Guaranteed.
- Invite your 20 favorite wine tasting companions, expecting to get 10 to each tasting.
- Delegate the wine selection (whether outsourced to Bottlenotes.com, your favorite buyer at your local wine shop, your best friend’s wife who’s training for her Master Sommelier exam, etc.) to one group member. 6-7 wines seems to be the max number a small group can enjoy when tasting casually over 2 hours.
- Delegate the relevant cheese/appetizer acquisition to another attendee.
- Decide if you would like a cultural component for the evening and if so, delegate yet another “cultural curator” for the evening. Again, this is truly optional in my mind; the wine alone can provide ample topic for discussion.
- Ask the host to be prepared with at least 2 wine glasses per person (for side by side comparison purposes), glasses of water, and spittoons (1 per 3 attendees) for the tasting.
- Pick your favorite album to play in the background so the music is consistent throughout the evening.
- Start with a half-glass of sparkling wine or the first white as a palate-awakener as everyone arrives.
- Ask people to rate the wines as they taste them, so you can have an active conversation about the merits of each wine.
- If you’re inclined to track all that you taste, fax the completed tasting notes to Bottlenotes.com so we can upload the attendees’ ratings to their own online wine cellar – or you can upload your tasting notes and ratings directly to Bottlenotes.com (and soon by Bottlenotes Mobile!).
Most of all, we’re happy to help organize your tasting anytime; simply email firstname.lastname@example.org for personalized tasting tips.
Lastly, if a whole wine tasting series seems a little intimidating, I recommend picking a regional theme, give a preliminary tasting a go as a trial, and you can always lock in for a multi-event series if it’s a success.
By and large, our recommendation is to plan on a half-bottle, of 2.5 glasses, per person per tasting. There are roughly 20 one-ounce pours, or 10 2-ounce pours, per bottle.
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