The peak of harvest season is the ideal time to appreciate the coziness of your backyard and welcome friends around the table to catch up. There are few better ways to relish in this autumnal vibe than a fall wine tasting, fit with simple snacks and a comfortable backyard setup. Understanding how to host a fall wine party at home requires minimal prep time and can be thrown together with just a few supplies, making this the perfect last-minute weekend plan for you and your group. Starsong has some tips on how you can enjoy your favorite wines and foods with your favorite people in your fall outdoor entertaining area this season.
How to Host a Fall Wine Party at Home
There’s no need to be a “wine person” to throw a home wine tasting party; in the age of the enthusiastic foodie, it’s easy to gather information on each wine at your local store or online while leaving space for fun interpretation that matches your group’s energy. Try out a few easy themes to get started:
- Regional: Select 4-5 wines from a particular region, from Sonoma or Bordeaux for example.
- Potluck: Ask each friend to bring a bottle with a bit of information from their local wine shop or winery.
- Blind tastings: Pour bottles into plain carafes and allow each person to mark what they sense without being swayed by the bottles region or price.
- Pairings: Cheese or chocolate enthusiasts? Make your tasting about paring each glass with a range of sharp or soft cheeses or some milk and dark chocolates.
How to Choose the Wine
A common misconception when deciding how to host a wine party at home is that you need to break the bank. Even top wine experts recommend that the sweet spot of wine bottles price somewhere between $10 and $18 depending on the vintage and type. Even with this lower price tag, you’ll be surprised by the way each person reacts to different vintages and price points depending on their palette—one of the factors that makes wine so fascinating.
How Much Wine to Buy
Assume a one-half to three-quarters a bottle per person in a wine-tasting scenario. Although traditional tastings only include a few ounces per pour, you’ll want to make sure there’s enough for each person to kick back with a glass or two after finding their favorite.
When choosing wine, begin by chatting with your local wine store expert. They’ll be thrilled to guide you in the direction you’re hoping to go, especially if you’re new to the wine world. Mix your selections up by vintage, price point or create a range for your tasting from dry to sweet.
Some of the most popular variations in white wines include:
- Chardonnay: On the dry end of the white wine list, Chardonnays are distinctly oaked or unoaked, the former featuring an earthy, rounded flavor with the latter tasting light and zesty.
- Sauvignon Blanc: Originating from Bordeaux, this popular white is high in acidity and has a crisp dryness without Chardonnay’s oaky flavor.
- Pinot Gris: Also called Pinot Grigio, this is a good middle-of-the-road wine between sweetly drinkable and refreshingly dry. It often includes notes of citrus and florals.
- Riesling: These range in levels of sweetness, but many focus on pear, apple and honey notes.
Popular reds include:
- Cabernet Sauvignon: Richest when it comes to body, these wines tend to have rich, spicy roundness with high tannins and bold finish.
- Merlot: Similar to Cabernet in round body, this is a popular choice for wine tastings as it is a bit smoother and fruitier while maintaining the same depth.
- Zinfandel: Often made as a variety of rose wine, Zinfandel is a medium-bodied red with notes of raisin and raspberry.
- Pinot Noir: As one of the most popular reds, this light-bodied, fruity red is easy to drink yet ages well for complex varieties.
Wine Tasting Party Prep
Once you’ve chosen the perfect wines for your evening, get yourself situated with supplies and prep your wine with enough time to sit back and rest before guests arrive.
Supplies You’ll Need
- Stemmed Glasses: include one clear wine glass per person.
- Pitcher of water: This allows you to splash and quickly rinse each glass between tastings.
- Dump bucket: For a true tasting, include a nearby metal bucket for pouring out the remaining wine from each round. This also assists with the rinsing process.
- Ice buckets: Keep your white wines on ice throughout the evening and intermittently cool your reds down—preferably to around 55 degrees—for an ideal tasting temperature.
- Tasting cards: Print the names of each wine (or their number in the case of blind tasting) and include a spot for friends to make notes or to read about each glass.
Wine tasting party food ideas can run the gamut from snacks to a full dinner. A menu of easy appetizers for a wine tasting party is the best balance between nourishing and deliciously simple.
Overall, you’ll want to find flavors that complement the tasting notes in the wine itself. The best appetizers with wine often include cheese, cured meats, chocolate and fruit. Spruce up the simple cheese plate with items like figs stuffed with goat cheese or a simple take on a herbed olive bowl. Focus on simple ingredients without complex seasoning.
Similarly, cheese palettes should mirror the wines themselves—sharp or crisp cheese such as parmesan and gruyere pair best with white wines while earthy cheeses like gouda and Manchego match well with earthy reds. When in doubt, consider their regional pairings. Which cheeses would each region pair with their own wines?
Outdoor entertaining melds perfectly with hosting a fall wine tasting, especially when it’s an opportunity to use your outdoor dining area. When decking out an outdoor dining set, place a wine glass, wine notecard and napkin at each place setting. Depending on your theme, add a pop of festivity with a napkin holder or wine charm. If you wish, create personalized place cards to welcome each guest. Arrange the food on small plates intermittently throughout the table for easy pairing and passing.
If the table is long, place two pitchers of water and dump buckets for easy access. Create a place for yourself at the opposite end of the table, or if available, at the outdoor bar. Small vases of autumnal flowers add a softness to the tablescape, along with unscented candles or a string of lights. Be sure to keep the outdoor space well-lit for properly tasting each wine.
How to Taste Wine
Wine Enthusiast breaks down the wine tasting process in detail, even for first-timers. Move through your senses—first by evaluating the color and swirl of the wine in the glass—and then by naming all aromas that come to mind when sniffing its aroma. The tasting portion comes from pulling a mouthful wine as you would if you were sipping from a straw. This allows greater concentration on the complete flavor of the wine.
Most importantly, there’s no need to see this as a serious event. Each person should have a unique reaction to each wine, so trust your initial reactions and have fun with the conversations that arise with each glass.
When seeking a lovely way to use your outdoor dining area this fall, these easy steps simplify how to host a wine tasting party at home. Depending on your backyard setup, there are countless ways to personalize this experience to your home and tastes. In addition to the joy of drinking the wine itself, home wine tasting parties allow you to get to know a new crowd a bit better. So, set up the structure of the night, and let the conversations flow. The beautiful setting and delicious wines will speak for themselves.