As long summer days begin to taper off, the time for outdoor entertaining in the desert is in full swing. One of the most satisfying ways to bring people together is to organize a soiree centered around spirits. Wine is a highlight of so many events, why not make it the main event? Here are a few surefire tips for hosting a backyard wine tasting party.
Elevate Your Outdoor Space
For a wine-tasting party, you want to roll out the red (or green) carpet. Set your date a month in advance, so you have time to prepare. Make sure the basics are in order: your turf should be freshly mowed and looking healthy. If it needs a little work to get there, start giving it extra TLC in the month before the event. One-third of Phoenix homeowners have a Phoenix lawn care professional take care of their yard. If you’re typically a do-it-yourselfer, you may want to hire out some of the maintenance so you can focus on the big picture pre-party.
Stir up some ambiance with gentle lighting and low-key decor. Outdoor speakers are a must, and make sure you curate a playlist well in advance to set the tone. You may have to rent some outdoor seating and tables. If so, go for the highest-end options available. Use white tablecloths and candles to set the mood.
Select a Theme
All great parties have a theme, and a wine-tasting party is no exception. Pin down a region, a price range and a style to structure your tasting party around. If you’re going for a regional tasting, why not choose a selection of Arizona wines? The Grand Canyon State has more than 80 wineries to choose from. Decide from the beginning if you want your guests to know what they’re imbibing, or if you’d prefer to keep the labels under wraps for a blind tasting.
Match the Crowd Size to Number of Bottles
Consider this more like a very well-curated dinner party than a big blowout. Let’s assume you keep the guest list to a dozen participants (hosts included). Do the math for your wine purchase: a standard pour is five ounces, which means five glasses for each 750 ml bottle. However, a wine-tasting standard pour is two to three ounces. For a wine-tasting for a dozen people, you’ want to have three bottles of each variety. That leaves enough wine on hand for those who wish to re-taste.
Design an elegant, well-organized tasting card to give to your guests so they can take notes on each wine as they taste. Offer guests a “spit bucket” so they don’t have to swallow each taste. Keep a carafe of water on hand to rinse glasses between tastings, and be prepared to give a brief introduction about each vintage before the pour.
Offer Light Snacks
You may want to provide cheese pairings or some small hors d’oeuvres with each wine. If you want to keep it really simple, bread or crackers can offer a bit of ballast or a light palate cleanser between wine courses. Don’t skimp on jugs of water to keep everyone hydrated.
Taste in Sequence
Wineries have specific rules governing tastings. While you don’t have to obey them to a T, some simple tasting guidelines can enhance the experience.
- Work your way from dry and sparkling to sweet with white wines.
- With red wines progress from light-bodied to full-bodied.
You may choose to finish the evening with a dessert wine, or with a cocktail using a smoky mezcal to counterbalance the wines.
No matter how you choose to host a wine-tasting party, with wine as the guest of honor, you can hardly go wrong. Have fun, drink responsibly and encourage an atmosphere of discussion. Who knows, if it all goes well, you may end up starting the neighborhood wine club.
–Francesca Singer is a landscape architect who is passionate about plants, DIY home restoration, and travel. When not writing, she can be found working in the garden, wrangling her toddler, or wielding power tools in Texas or rural France.