Tasting groups are a great way to socialize, taste a bunch of wines for a small investment and learn a lot about wines in a laid back setting. The hardest part about tasting groups is setting them up, but here are some ways to make it easier.
First, you need to have someone who is going to be responsible for putting the groups together. Chances are, if you are reading this, it’s going to be you.
Second, you need to find a committed group of people. Ask people who are really into learning more about wine. The good news is more people than you think want an education in wine but don’t have the time or confidence to step out of their comfort zone to start the process. Start by putting the word OUT. Since there are so many avenues of social media, just start posting. See who responds and put together an email list of those people. Sending out a group email with everyone Cc’d on it gives people a sense of community and accountability. Start on FaceBook, become a member of the Guild of Sommeliers , post in there, linkedin and whatever other group you are a member of and see who responds. Put an email blast out and there you go.
Third, pick some days and times that work for most people then start. Six or seven people is a great number to have at a tasting. That way everyone can bring a decent bottle and try 6 or 7 wines which is plenty for a night when you are really tasting for education. Usually people cancel last minute so try aiming for eight or nine people.
Fourth, pick a theme. The first one should be fun and yummy because it needs to get people hooked so they want to come back for more and commit to making it a weekly event.
If you want to study for the sommelier exam I recommend starting with these as they are what you will be blind tasted on for level II. There is no blind tasting for level I.
The red grapes can be a) Gamay b) Cabernet Sauvignon/ Merlot c) Pinot Noir d) Syrah/Shiraz e) Sangiovese f) Zinfandel g) Malbec h) Nebbiolo
Whites a) Chardonnay b) Sauvignon Blanc c) Chenin Blanc d) Riesling e) Viognier f) Pinot Gris/ Grigio g) Gewurtztraminier
And they will be from a) France b) Italy c) US d) Australia e) Germany f) New Zealand g) Argentina
If you are NOT studying for an exam and just want to have fun tasting and learning more I think everyone bring one of their favorite wines that is single varietal (aka grape) just so you can learn what varietals should taste like and people can develop their palate from there.
Fifth, have someone bring paper bags for everyone. This way everyone can blind taste without being able to tell which one is your wine. Have everyone take off the cork and foil ahead of time, then place their own wine in a bag, put it on the table and walk away. The host or someone else can number the wines 1 – however many people attend the tasting.
I find that blind tasting really makes you learn a lot and use your senses more so than knowing what you are tasting and training yourself by familiarizing each wine to your memory.
Look at the color, the viscosity, the clarity etc. Pay attention to the nose and learn which wines have which characteristics. Each wine and remember acidity levels, tannins, oak, fruit, earth etc and remember what each thing means.
Look for my upcoming guide on tasting to help with the actual tasting group!
This is a really fun process. Enjoy and let me know what on here was helpful and what is missing.