Hosting a fun and memorable wine tasting doesn’t have to be complicated, and we’re here to help. With an impressive selection of clean wine to choose from (plus tasting tips from and easy recipe ideas), you’ll be swirling and sipping in no time. Plus, we reached out to our Master Sommelier, Josh Nadel, for his best planning, serving, and tasting recommendations.
Even for something relatively low-key, a little advance planning goes a long way. Here are four easy steps to keep things simple for your next wine tasting.
There are lots of ways to organize your tasting, so pick what sounds the most fun to you. Here are a few ideas:
After you’ve chosen your wines, you have the option to do a blind tasting. This approach involves pouring wine into decanters or wrapping the bottles in wine bags to disguise their true identity. In addition to the actual tasting part, don’t miss the opportunity to toss some wine education into the mix. Print out information on the wineries, vintages, or regions and share it with your guests. And when it comes to the amount of alcohol involved, three to five bottles should be adequate for a small group of guests. To reduce decision fatigue, sign up for our Thrive Market Wine Club to have 6 bottles sent to your door.
After inviting your guests, get started on the snacks. A tasting doesn’t require an elaborate spread. Think make-ahead options, artfully assembled platters, and palate-cleansing crackers.
Easy Recipe Ideas
Read on for suggestions from a Master Sommelier so you can swirl, sip, and savor like a pro. His first non-negotiable? Be sure everyone is comfortable and in a space where they can truly appreciate the wines and reflect on the descriptions you’ll be sharing.
Before you even take a sip, exercise a little patience and pay attention to three key traits.
During your first sip, you can compare the aroma of the wine with your first impressions of flavors on the palate, and most importantly, structure. Nadel explains that structure refers to tannin, acidity, body, dryness (sugar, or lack thereof), and body. For example, is the wine mouth-watering and refreshing due to higher levels of acidity, or full-bodied and tannic, which needs food? Defining and discussing aroma, flavor, texture, and body, “provides you and your guests with an approachable and common language to define the cornerstones of wine, and a vocabulary everyone can take with them going forward,” Nadel explains.
Once you’re well on your way to trying all the wines, remember the mantra of appearance-aroma-body-flavor-texture to guide your tasting. “When you taste, do that slurpy thing where you inhale through the nose and mouth at the same time, even just once or twice to give it a try. Getting your olfactory senses involved amplifies your experience.” You can also try swirling, which Nadel says isn’t just theater, but helps release the wine’s aroma, as well as giving your palate 10 to 20 seconds to experience the texture and finish of the wine.
Bottom line: There are no wrong opinions. “Don’t listen to anyone who speaks in absolutes,” he reminds. “Wine is subjective and delicious in the way you prefer it for yourself.”
When choosing your wines, you can’t go wrong with these member-approved bottles.
Las Cepas Rioja
This deep purple wine is bright with flavors of wild blueberry. Celeste from Texas says it has the “assertiveness of a Spanish red, with a gentle red fruit aftertaste that reminds me of Italian reds.”
Scott Paul Pinot Noir
Hailing from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, this light-bodied red has notes of cherry, spice, and rose. Carolyn from Illinois says it’s her new favorite and calls this bottle “smooth and silky.”
Fonte Barco Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
Calling all charcuterie platters: travel to Italy with a peppery bottle made with hand-harvested, organic grapes. Emily from Texas says “the tannins are lovely and balanced; it’s a crowd pleaser that also has some decent complexity to it.”
Haast Sauvignon Blanc
A favorite since the beginning, this New Zealand bottle boasts tropical fruit and herbal notes. Donna from Massashusetts says it’s “super crisp” and paired beautifully with shrimp and asparagus risotto.
Asado Cruz Chardonnay
Sustainably farmed in Argentina’s Uco Valley, you can expect a creamy texture with citrus and white fruit flavors married with a subtle touch of oak. For Debbie in Indiana, it’s become her go-to for sipping on the back patio.
Plozner Pinot Grigio
With delicate aromas of melon and stone fruit, Plozner’s Italian Pinot Grigio is the perfect companion to appetizers and salads. Annabel from California says “this is a great day and light wine with a lot of flavor” and noted hints of green apple.
EthicDrinks Coteaux d’Aix en Provence Rosé
This crowd-pleasing sip blends three sustainable grapes—Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, and Syrah—and is ready for cheese platters, seafood, and barbecue. Brenda from Texas says “I’m always looking for great natural wines without pesticides or added sugar, and this company fits the bill. The wine was very tasty and I really enjoyed it.”
El Gran Amigo Cava Brut Rosé
Pop this sparkling Pinot Noir anytime you’re looking for a crisp and refreshing addition to your meal. Elizabeth from Illinois admits she’s not always a sparkling wine fan, but says, “This stuff is amazing! Got all my neighbors buying it as we all love it!”
Domaine Py Cuvée Jules Rosé
From France’s Corbières region, this organic Syrah blend makes for a versatile bottle. Juleen from Massachusetts says “this was an enjoyable dry rosé with more fruit forward notes. Buying again because I enjoyed it so much!”
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