While there’s certainly nothing wrong with just getting together to drink, eat, and talk, sometimes you may want a little more structure for a get-together where wine is the beverage of choice. Below are a few ideas to help you plan your next wine gathering.
1. Wine Games
A fellow wine blogger tuned me in to some great wine games. There are apparently lots of options available at amazon.com: True Fabrications ZinZig Trivia Game, Wine-Opoly Monopoly Board Game, Murder Mystery Party – A Taste for Wine and Murder, and Wine Game Kit – All You Need Is Wine – A Blind Wine Tasting Party Game, just to name a few. Choose one that you think is appropriate for your guests’ interests and just have fun!
2. Blind Wine Tastings
Blind tastings are when you taste wines without knowing what they are. You may want to prepare your guests in advance by sharing some advice about how wine tasting works if they don’t have much experience. In blind tastings, usually the wines are brown-bagged and served, then revealed at the end of the evening.
One suggestion I received from a colleague at Plum Deluxe was this ice breaker: have everyone bring two bottles of wine, bag one of each of the wines, and label them with a number. Have your guests taste each of them and select their favorite. Whoever brings the wine with the most votes takes home the second bottles of the wines.
My favorite blind tastings have been those that focused on white or red wines only. The guests taste the wines, then try to guess the grape varieties based on aroma and flavor profiles.
3. Social Media Wine Tastings
Social media wine tastings started sometime in 2010. The premise was to have people focus on a wine variety or theme — say, Sauvignon Blanc Day, Chardonnay Day, or Cabernet Day — and gather face-to-face and online all over the world to taste and share their experiences through social media outlets, especially Twitter. They have become so popular that there’s at least one gathering per week; for example, #winechat every Wednesday.
Come up with your own theme and have your guests bring wines of a certain grape variety, state, region, or country and go from there. You can choose to share your party via social media or just among yourselves.
4. Wine Swaps
We’ve featured a full guide on how to host a wine swap party. There are so many ways to do a wine swap – you can have an free-for-all, you can do an action, you can incorporate it into the games mentioned above – the opportunities are endless to share your favorite wines.
5. Wine-Themed Movie Night
This is one of my favorites: break out some Merlot and other wines from Santa Barbara County and watch Sideways. Have guest bring Napa wines and watch Bottle Shock. Or, open some wines from the Provence and watch One Good Year. If you and your guests are serious wine geeks, add Somm to this list of popular wine movies. Here are 5 great movies that pair with wine.
Don’t just watch the movies quietly, but interact with them and your guests. Can you quote a famous line just before it occurs? Can you create your own wine moments like the famous scene in Sideways? Perhaps give out a list of questions from the movie and have your guests answer them before and during the film. The person who gets the most correct answers wins a bottle of wine. Think wine movies à la Rocky Horror Picture Show audience participation, and the possibilities are endless.
In planning your party, always remember that no one is ever wrong when it comes to wine. Individual preferences and tastes will prevail and everyone experiences wine differently. It’s about having fun, not being right, so keep it light. The best wine is the one YOU enjoy.
Photo credits: Theory,author, and Bottle Shock.