We all love to feel glamorous, and we all love wine. But you can pay as much for a glass of wine at a restaurant as you might pay for a bottle at your local wine shop. That’s why we’re all for hosting a tasting at home, and inviting your favorite friends (especially those who appreciate wine as much as you do). It’s so simple to pull off, and you don’t even have to bust your bank account. -Natalie Brown
1. Decide your tasting’s theme.
You can take your wine tasting any direction you’d like — this is your party! You can serve several different varieties or either red or white wine, or wines of a single grape. We love sparkling wines, so for a fizzy tasting we’d serve a Prosecco, a Cava, an Asti, and, if our budget allowed, a Brut Champagne, plus an Extra Dry Champagne. If you want to go red, then you could buy a Merlot, a Pinot Noir, a Tempranillo, a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Malbec, and a Petite Sirah.
Hosting a sparkling wine tasting? Try serving a prosecco, a slightly
sweet sparkling wine from Italy.
2. Ask for donations.
Collect a minimal amount of money — $2 or $3 — from each person you invite. This may feel a little weird at first, but your friends will get much more than $3 worth of wine over the course of the night! You can put the suggestion in a graceful line at the bottom of your invitations (use email to save on paper and postage), such as “Please bring $3 to help cover the cost of the tasting.” If you invite 10 people, then you have $30 to spend on wine, plus whatever cash you have to put toward the event.
3. Talk to your local wine shop.
When you go to buy your wine, ask the shop workers for recommendations. Tell them that you’re hosting a wine tasting and let them know your budget, and how many bottles of wine you’d like. Some wine stores will give you a discount if you buy 6 or 12 bottles, which is great if you’re throwing a tasting.
4. Don’t serve a meal – serve hors d’oeuvres.
Host your tasting late enough in the evening that your guests have time to eat a small meal beforehand — or early enough that they can go to dinner afterwards. Let them know that you won’t be serving large amounts of food on the invitation, such as “Hors d’oeuvres will be paired with select wines.” If you need some recipe ideas, check out our article on delicious hors d’oeuvre ideas. Depending on how many wines and how many hors d’oeuvres you plan to serve, you can ask your guests for a larger or smaller donation.
Chunks and bars of chocolate look sophisticated
and don’t require any cooking!
You may want to serve something sweet at the end, but instead of buying all the ingredients to make a fancy dessert, why not grab a selection of chocolate bars and serve them as pairings with wine? Try buying a bar or two each of white, milk, and dark chocolate, then pull off the wrappers and break the bars into individual squares. You can serve them on separate plates, so you can tell your guests which bar is which. We’re big fans of Lindt Chocolate bars ($3.85 – $5.00, Lindt.com) and Ghirardelli Chocolate bars ($3.95 – $4.55, Ghirardelli.com). Both companies also have tasting guides available on their websites, so you can educate yourself
5. Use plates and glassware that you already own.
Yes, this means you’ll have to do dishes after the party. But if you don’t buy a bunch of paper plates, then you can save money and the environment. Eclectic decorating is right on trend, so if you own several sets of dessert plates that don’t exactly match, you can totally use them together. Cloth napkins add a nice touch if you own them already, but otherwise plain white paper napkins, like the ones you keep on your kitchen table, work just fine.
Mismatched dinnerware shows off your personal style.
6. Buy fresh flowers.
You don’t have to go with the most expensive bouquet at your grocery store, but you can usually find a pretty selection for around $5. Then, arrange them however you like best: if you don’t own a vase, you can use extra wine glasses or champagne flutes for individual buds, or float them in a white or glass soup bowl filled with water. Flowers don’t need much help looking elegant, and can make the perfect little centerpiece.
Flowers set the mood, smell good, and make a super simple centerpiece.
7. Use tea lights.
Tea lights are possibly the cheapest candles you can find (IKEA sells a set of 100 for $3.99), and you can stick them in whatever you feel like — in glasses, on small mirrors, in tea light holders, in canning jars ($9.99 for 12, Bed, Bath, and Beyond) — really, the possibilities are endless. Just keep them away from anything flammable, like your fresh flowers!
8. Dim the lights.
Don’t drink in the dark, but if you keep the lights in your dining room at slightly-less-than-bright, it can set the mood without lots of fancy decorations (bonus: it’ll make any dust bunnies hiding in the corner less noticeable). If you don’t have a dimmer on your switch, use several lamps instead of the ceiling light.