Entertaining

HOW TO HOST A FUN (AND INEXPENSIVE) WINE PARTY

Want to hold one of the season’s most talked-about holiday soirees without blowing your yuletide budget? Throw a cheap wine tasting party featuring potluck appetizers and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the quality of your low-cost get-together.

Many award-winning wines on the market today (we’re talking gold medal and best-in-show winners) cost less than $10. Ask your guests to bring a bottle of their favorite “cheap” wine (set a maximum price of $10) for a blind wine tasting contest at your party. As soon as guests arrive with their wine, cover each bottle in white paper and put a number on each label.

ASK YOUR GUESTS TO BRING A HOMEMADE APPETIZER

(No stopping off on the way to the party to pick up a pound of pasta salad). Provide some suggestions, with links to recipes, for your more kitchen-impaired guests — especially single guys. Make sure everyone tells you what he or she is bringing in advance so you’ll avoid duplications. Send a last-minute email to let everyone know how many guests will be attending so they make enough food to pass around.

GIVE A PRIZE TO THE PERSON WHO BROUGHT THE WINNING WINE

Buy a gift basket or other fun prize for the person or couple who brings the bottle of wine that’s judged the best by your partygoers. On the night of your party, be prepared with an array of serving dishes, trays and utensils so you can dress up everyone’s appetizers to add some style to your bash. Make sure you have plenty of wine glasses and have a system that lets you quickly wash them after each round of judging.

LET YOUR GUESTS BE THE JUDGE

Provide each guest with wine rating cards, asking each attendee to use a scale of 1 to 10 to rate each wine’s nose, body, taste and overall quality or other categories you choose.

TASTE ONE BOTTLE AT A TIME

Open bottle No. 1 and pour each guest just enough so that you can give everyone a sample from the bottle. Give people 10 minutes (depending on how many guests you’ll have and how many wines they’ll be tasting) to sample the wine, enjoy appetizers and chat. Move on to bottle No. 2 and the rest of your bottles until you’ve finished the tasting. You might have a red and a white category and award two prizes. Have your guests fill out a card for each wine you serve at the end of each tasting and collect the cards after each tasting. Put someone in charge of totaling the cards after each round so you can announce your results soon after everyone has sampled the last glass.

ENJOY THE REVEAL, IT COULD SURPRISE YOU AND YOUR GUESTS

After the last bottle has been sampled and you’ve collected the final set of cards, announce to everyone that you will shortly reveal the winner or winners before anyone leaves. Announce the winner by number, and then pull the white label off to reveal the wine. Do the same with every bottle of wine to let everyone see how the group judged each one. If you want to throw a monkey wrench in the evening, include a more expensive wine to see how it fares — at a cheap wine tasting party in Atlanta that included a number of affluent European attendees, the winner of the night was an inexpensive wine made in Indiana!

You and your party will be the talk of your group for weeks to come, even though you provided almost no food or drink. A little imagination can go a long way when planning an absolutely fabulous holiday gathering.

This article was written by Sam Ashe-Edmunds, contributor for The Daily Clutch.