Friday, April 26, 2013

T is for Hosting a 20-Something Wine Party

     “I wish I knew more about wine,” my friend Roseanna said over drinks one night.
     “Host a wine tasting party,” I said.
     “I’m 25. I don’t have money for that.”
     “Can you afford to eat?”
     “Then you can afford a wine tasting party.”

Ahhh, being 20-Something. I remember those days of ramen noodle dinners, hand-me down furniture and buying clothes at thrift stores. I’m far from 20-Anything but I still shop at thrift stores because I relish the challenge of finding something great for a low price. Recently I found the most adorable shirt and pants by California designer Trina Turk in bright tropical colors and… but I digress.
Being 20-Something and not having a lot of cash does not prohibit you from hosting a swinging tasting party where you can learn about wine. Like thrifting it’s the challenge of doing something nice for a low price.

Like what you're reading? Get this, and more, in Alicia Bien's book of wine stories, Evolution of a Wine Drinker.

Here are 10 Tips to Host your own affordable 20-Something Wine Tasting Party:
1)    Every guest brings a bottle of wine. (No one is allowed to bring Trader Joe’s Two Buck Chuck because everyone already knows what that wine tastes like!)
2)    Open all the bottles and set them in a central location on the table. Encourage guests to begin tasting the sparkling wines (aka Champagnes) first, then move on to the white wines, after which they can sample the red wines.
3)    Make a list of the wines drunk and, based on the other wines being sampled, rate them from 1-5 (with 5 being “the best”). Discuss with your friends what you smell, taste and like about the wine. Even if everyone likes the Pinot Noir and you don’t, it’s okay! Remember the goal is to discover what wines are available and which ones you like to drink.
4)    Provide a “dump bucket” for the wine. If a guest samples a wine but after tasting it does not like it they can pour it into this dump bucket. Preferably use a deep dump bucket that is not clear glass. No one wants to see what’s been dumped.
5)    Host your party on a weekend where you have time the day of to prepare for the party. 
6)    Choose your music play list in advance. Some wine songs to include: “Spill the Wine” by the Isley Brothers, “Red, Red Wine” by UB40 and anything by Dean Martin.
7)    As the host, provide food to snack on. Do a colorful veggie tray with sliced cucumbers, red peppers, celery sticks, baby carrots and cherry tomatoes. Buy the vegetables whole so you can peel and slice them yourself, which is always cheaper—and healthier—than buying them pre-washed, pre-cut or pre-chewed.
8)    Make a cheese plate with mild varieties that will complement the wines, like Brie, Camembert, Gouda, or even a mild cheddar. (Cheese will be your biggest expense but a little goes a long way, which makes it worth it.)
9)    Decorate your cheese plate with thinly sliced apples, pears and/or red or green seedless table grapes. My favorite: Red Flame grapes.
10) Provide crackers to nibble on in between tasting the various wines. (Avoid salty crackers whose salt will mask the wine’s flavors.)

But which wines to buy? Here’s a list of 10 wines from our last tasting. I set a price limit: each bottle should cost $15 or less. Friends brought:
Sparkling Wines:
1) Cava: Freixnenet Cordon Negro from Spain. “The Spanish Champagne”.

2) Sauvignon Blanc: Sauvignon Republic from Marlborough, New Zealand
3) Chardonnay: Edna Valley Vineyard from California
4) Pinot Gris: A-Z from Oregon
5) Vinho Verde: Aveleda Fonte from Portugal

6) Red wine blend: Epicurio Aglianico from Italy
7) Merlot (semi-sweet): Balatonboglári from Hungary
8) Grenache: Bitch (R Wines) from South Australia (Its name is fun if you don’t take it personally.)
9) Malbec: 1 Antigal from Argentina
10) Cabernet Sauvignon: Ravenswood from California

10 tips to hosting a wine party + 10 wines that cost $15 and less = a terrific 20-Something Wine Tasting Party!
So whether you are 20-Something, 90-Something or somewhere in between, you can host your own affordable wine tasting party. I’m feeling so inspired I think I’ll host one myself. And I know just the outfit I’ll wear—the most adorable shirt and pants by California designer Trina Turk in bright tropical colors…