How to Host a Wine Swap Party

How to Host a Wine Swap Party
Last weekend I went to one of the best wine party ideas that I have ever seen -- a wine swap party.
Hosted by my friends who run Hip Chicks Do Wine (one of my favorite Portland Urban Wineries), the concept is rather simple: Guests bring bottles of wine that they aren't interested in drinking -- perhaps you got a port for a gift and you don't like port, or you've overstocked on a pinot noir that's too dry for you.
All the wines go onto a table and at a designated time, you can go "shopping" and pick out new wines to try -- you get to take home as many wines as you brought. It's a fun way to try new wines and freshen up your home wine rack. But, it's a party concept that needs just a pinch of prep and planning.
Here's my 5-step process for how to host a wine swap party with your friends and family.

1. Invitations are Key

Because this party has some entry requirements, it's pretty important to send out invitations and ask for RSVPs. Key points you'll want to include in your invite:
  • Explain the concept and that they can take home as many wines as they bring. You may want to suggest a quantity limit (2-6 bottles is a good target, I'd say). Ask guests to bring their wines in reusable totes so they can take their new wines home with ease.
  • Suggest gently that wines "just not for them" are what you're looking for - nobody wants to go to a wine swap party and take home some gnarly "raspberry orange chardonnay" wine or something.
  • Entice them with your house wine and canapes that will be on offer. A wine swap party is much more fun with a glass of wine in hand.

2. Set Up and Seed Your Wine Swap Table

You're going to want to set up a clearly designated area for the wines that are to be swapped -- you don't want guests accidentally helping themselves to your case of vintage favorites! A table where people can walk around and see all the wines on offer is best. Since people will be reading and reaching and wandering, I suggest that your serving wines and foods be on a separate table.
At the Hip Chicks party, the hostesses "seeded" the wine swap table with a few wines. I thought this was a nice touch because nobody wants to be the first one on the dance floor. Plus, this is one of those party concepts that allows the host to fully participate with ease.

3. Prep your Appetizers and Canapés

Wine swapping is hard work, so you'll need to keep your guests fed and watered. As I mentioned earlier, I suggest having a house wine to pour so that the wine being sipped is separate from the wine being swapped.
Looking through our dinner party recipes archive, some canapés you might want to try for this:

4. Let the Unorganized Chaos Fun Begin!

At some point in the evening, you need to do the swap, of course. At Hip Chicks, the party ran for several hours and the swap table was open so as people came in, they dropped off wines and folks made their choices, sometimes swapping a couple of times before the evening was over.
If you have a smaller gathering and most everyone is arriving at the same time, you may want to just have everyone drop things off at the swap table and then, at a set time, make it open season for swapping.
If you want to make it more formal (or you have a lot of guests coming), you might want to have coupons or some sort of sheet so that people only take as much wine as they brought. However, most of you can probably just go with the honor system.
Hosts, don't forget to grab your swaps!

5. Now Swap Stories

I think a nice touch for ending the evening is to have guests share stories about where they got the wines they brought. For example, at this party we brought a Greek wine that was really interesting but I had just had enough of it. It was also interesting to hear about the different port wines and other wines from local purveyors, or how some folks had been gifted their wines.
Ok, so who's up for a wine swap?

Andy Hayes

Andy Hayes is the founder and creator of Plum Deluxe. He authors our award-winning weekly email newsletter, The Blend and curates our popular organic tea of the month club.
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