Throw a wine tasting party at home

Napa, Sonoma, even Arizona's Verde Valley are popular locations for wine tasting, there are even a few locations here in the Phoenix area to taste wine.  But if you want a more intimate experience, you can bring the tasting room to your home by throwing a wine tasting party.

Jessica Fleming, Certified Sommelier and owner of Clink Wine Education and Entertainment shares a few tips to get you started.  

You'll want to start with the guest list, finding the right balance of people is important.  Fleming says 5 - 10 people is the ideal number, who have an interest in learning something new.  This will give you the opportunity to open a few bottles of wine to taste, without the waste.  

When choosing wines Fleming says it is important to find something new.  If you're unsure of what to choose, she suggests talking to the clerk at the wine shop, her favorite is Az Wine, and she advises you to be bold and adventurous.  Fleming says you can also email her if you need direction.

You'll need some essentials at home for the party, of course there's the and the wine key, beyond that Fleming says you'll want to make sure everyone has a pen and paper to write down their thoughts on the wine.  

Full sized stemware is a must, Fleming says a stem on the glasswear is important to keep the wine from heating up, and ensure ample room for swirling.  

A decanter is a great tool for a wine tasting party.  Fleming says it will help aerate wines that may not have a lot of aroma at first, or are high in alcohol.  Fleming suggests letting the wine sit in the decanter for an hour while you taste other wines, then return for a second taste to see how it differs from the initial tasting.

As much as you want to go crazy with the decorations, keep it simple.  Fleming says a white table cloth or other surface will allow you to get a clear image of the color of the wine.  

If you want the wines to remain a mystery, Fleming says you can find decorative wine covers to hide the bottles from your guests.

Finally, wine away is a must to keep on hand, in case there are any spills; and Private Reserve will help preserve any leftovers.  

Now that you know what you'll need to get started, here are a few of Fleming's etiquette tips for the actual tasting whether it is in your own home or at a winery.

1.  Avoid eating or serving anything with a strong flavor; drinking coffee or brushing your teeth right before the tasting.  Fleming says it's not the end of the world if you do these things, but your senses will be more keen if you don't.

2.  Avoid using scented lotions, perfumes or after shave.  While you will be used to it, the scents may affect the sense of smell of other guests.  

3.  Keep an open mind!  Fleming says a wine tasting is about trying something new, learning and developing an appreciation for diversity. If this isn't your goal, you'll be better off continuing to buy that one bottle you really like, drinking and enjoying it.

When the actual tasting begins, make sure to swirl and slurp.  Yes... slurp.  When wine mixes with air, it allows all the chemical compounds to evaporate which is how we smell the aromas.  Fleming says swirling wine in a glass or decanter encourages the scent compounds to evaporate, she goes on to say the slurp achieves a similar outcome.  

Fleming says by allowing the wine to access your entire mouth (and not just your throat), you will get a better sense of the taste and feel of a wine.  If you slurp, and allow air to cross over the wine while it's in your mouth, you will achieve a greater level of evaporation, and you can smell the wine through your rear olfactory which is located in the back of your throat.

If all this sounds too overwhelming to you, Jessica Fleming will do the work for you.  She designs menus, provides the supplies, and the educational component of the tasting.  

You can also catch her the fourth Friday of the month at Practical Art's Swirl Sniff Sip events.

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