Think Halloween is just about trick or treating for kids? Think again! Why not consider a special event at your restaurant or gathering some friends for a blind Halloween wine tasting that I call the Which Wine is Witch?
A blind tasting means that everyone tastes a series of wines without knowing their identity. Tasting blind makes it easier to focus on the wine without having preconceived notions. Many times when we know the wine or the price of the wine our brain will fast forward with observations that may or may not be there. Sommeliers regularly taste wine this way to develop their sensory skills and are even tested on their blind tasting skills.
To conceal your wines, cover the bottles with paper bags or aluminum foil. The task for you and your guests is to guess the identity of the wine or Which Wine is Witch. You can try to guess the varietal, the least or most expensive and, of course, vote on a favorite. It’s easier than you think, not to mention fun. Your guests are certain to learn more about wine and costumes are optional.
Here’s what you need to know to create your Which Wine is Witch? Halloween Tasting:
Pick a party theme. Your theme might be to try wines from specific countries (Spanish wines), certain grape varietals (Chardonnay or Petit Syrah), price range (reds under $20), or, perhaps, unusual or spooky labels. Anything works so just be creative!
Looking for inspiration? Search the Internet to see what other wine professionals are doing. There are websites like LocalWineEvents.com that list wine events all over the country with great ideas for you to model. Don’t forget to ask your wine distributor, they might have great ideas, too.
Choose a format. This can be done as a sit down tasting, with each person tasting wines side-by-side, or you can place the wines around the room and taste them one by one. The sit down format requires a significant amount of glassware, depending on the number of guests you invite. If you need additional glassware catering companies often rent them at reasonable rates.
Invite guests. Invitations are as easy as sending an email or using an online invitation services like Evite. If this is an at home party, ask guests to bring wines appropriate to the theme. Remember to make sure you have adequate room and glassware for your guests. Eight to twelve people is an optimal size for a home wine tasting party—enough people to be interesting, yet still manageable. Wine tasting parties are also great for making new friends. A great old proverb says “Over a bottle of wine many a friend is made.” You are guaranteed to prove the truth of this the night of your tasting!
Think about food pairings. An easy way to handle the food issue is to have a variety of appetizers such as cheeses, olives and charcuterie. This way there is a variety of foods for testing with different wines.
As a general rule: light fare goes best with lighter bodied, more delicate wines; fuller bodied, more intense wines go best with bigger foods. For instance, white wines are a natural with salads and seafood whereas hearty reds match the fuller fat content of meatier dishes. Don’t be constrained by the old adage white wines with fish and red wines with meat. This is just a general rule and is, of course, meant to be broken. Fuller whites, like a buttery Chardonnay, can match nicely with a chicken or pork dish whereas a light red, like Pinot Noir, is a natural with a fabulous piece of salmon.
To test how the various foods go with each wine, you want to make what I call a wine sandwich™. Take a sip of the wine alone. Next, take a bite of food, followed by a second sip of the same wine. The second sip will demonstrate the effect the food has on the wine. It’s a tasty method to learn what pairings work and which do not.
Taste the wine. Have water and bread or crackers available for palate cleansing in between tastings. Pour about an ounce or two of wine in the glasses (one ounce is approximately the width of one finger). Guests may not finish the entire sample, so have empty ice buckets or pitchers to discard the wine. Provide tasting sheets for guests to take notes, guess the identity of each wine and score their favorites. Be sure to give folks enough time to taste and discuss each sample before moving to the next wine. You’ll quickly find that people have different opinions about the same wine. Once tasting is completed, unveil Which Wine is Witch and see who guessed correctly. Happy Halloween!