Tips for a DIY Wine Tasting

By: Ofelia Saenz

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What’s one of the most enjoyable, well-balanced, complementary pairings you could bring together? Good wine and good friends. It’s a combo that never disappoints.

A DIY wine tasting is a great excuse (as if you need one) to invite your fellow wine lovers over for an evening of exploration.

First-time wine host? No sweat. Here are a few insider tips to ensure you and your guests have a great experience.


Pick a Theme

Before you send out the invites, decide what the focus of your wine tasting is going to be. Will you do a tasting of a particular varietal from different areas? Will you choose all wines from a specific region? How about blind tasting a specific vintage of a single category, like 1994 Oregon Pinot Noirs? There are no hard and fast rules. You can get as granular and particular or as open and spontaneous as you like.

If your wine tasting is a special occasion, tie the celebration into the theme of the evening. For example, if this is a bachelorette party, you could choose wines from the country or region where the couple is honeymooning.

Let Your Guests Know What (If Anything) to Bring

You don’t necessarily need to be the sole provider of the wine. Asking your guests to each bring a bottle gives your night a great ice breaker. After everyone has settled in and is ready to begin, go around the room and let each person tell why they chose to bring what they did. The conversation

doesn’t have to be limited to wine talk. Maybe this bottle was a gift and they were saving it for a special occasion (aren’t you lucky?), or maybe that bottle was the wine they had on a first date with their significant other.

If your tasting wines are going to be provided by your guests, be sure to have a bottle of something to pour as your guests arrive. Something light and bubbly is a nice way to kick off the evening.

Setting Your Table

Steer clear of anything scented, such as candles, diffusers, strong-smelling flowers or anything else that may interfere with your ability to focus on the smells in your glass. Skip the cologne or perfume tonight, and if you’re comfortable doing so, suggest to your guests that they do the same.

Your wine glasses don’t have to be super fancy, but they should allow for plenty of room for properly experiencing the wine’s aromas. You should be able to put your nose in the glass with about a two-ounce pour. And although it’s nice for each guest to have a separate wine glass for each wine, it is completely acceptable to use a single glass for all the wines. There’s no need to rinse the glasses between wines because ideally you’ll be serving from light and white to bold and red.

Your place setting checklist should also include some still, room-temperature drinking water, a nicely-dressed “spittoon,” a pen for each guest and something on which to write wine notes. This could simply be blank paper, or you can print out prompts. When Brut Detroit does a wine tasting, we hand out a sheet with prompts as well as another sheet with tasting guidelines to remind people (or instruct newcomers) on how to properly see, smell and sip your wine. If you’ve been to one of our tastings recently, pull out your old copies and use them to create your own materials for your guests.

Wine, Then Dine

If your plans for the evening include dinner, save the entrees for later. For the wine tasting, it’s best to stick with light finger foods. Neutral flavors and textures like bread, crackers, cheese and fruit are great for cleansing your palate between wines.

Know Your Stuff

Do a little research on the wines you’ll be focusing on and don’t be shy about sharing what you’ve learned. You could even print out some bullet points for people to take home. But if you do that, wait until after the tasting to pass out the “cheat sheets.” This way you won’t inadvertently influence someone’s perception of a wine.

If you want to really hone your knowledge of a particular country or region, try diving deeper into the art of wine tasting by checking out one of our educational events, such as the series “Explore the World Through Wine,” each of which digs into the nitty-gritty of wines from a particular country and/or region. In March we’ll be exploring France, then Italy in April, and Spain in May. This series takes place at the beautiful Grosse Pointe War Memorial, overlooking Lake Saint Clair, and is great for all levels of wine enthusiasts.

If you have questions or would like us to help you plan your wine tasting, our expert sommeliers are always happy to help. Drop a line to