How to Host a Wine Tasting at Home

If you’ve ever wondered how sommeliers and oenophiles pull off their swirling and sniffing with ease, we’re here to hack the home wine tasting. The world of wine may seem complicated, but, armed with a little knowledge (and some excellent vino), you’re sure to get a taste of complexity while savoring the flavors. Bonus: You’ll undoubtedly impress your guests with an over-the-top, delicious at-home event. We’ve partnered with Naked Wines to curate an exclusive The Pioneer Woman tasting 6-pack that will wow both beginners and aficionados. Read on for our comprehensive guide to hosting a tasting that will leave you—and your guests—asking: When can I do this again?

Start with the Right Glassware

Set up a line of glasses at each guest’s place. For that professional vibe, you’ll want to make sure that each of these vessels has a shape that best complements the grape varietals that guests will be sampling.

If you don’t have access to a variety of glassware, you can’t go wrong with one Champagne glass, one all-purpose white wine glass, and one Bordeaux glass per person—just be sure to rinse each glass between varietals.

If you’re going to host wine tastings often, invest in a set of each type of glass you’ll need. If you’re sampling the Naked Wines The Pioneer Woman wine box, that includes six different wines: one sparkling, one aromatic white, one full-bodied white, one rosé, one light-bodied red, and one full-bodied red, so we recommend one of each of the following per person:

Beecher LaFrance

  • Champagne Glass: The tall, narrow, iconic shape of a Champagne glass helps to retain the wine’s carbonation and capture its flavor.
  • Chardonnay Glass: Chardonnay glasses have a large opening that directs the wine to the tip and sides of the tongue and helps to balance the wine’s sweetness and acidity.
  • Aromatic or Riesling Glass: Riesling glasses have a rounded bowl that narrows toward the rim, helping guide the wine toward the center and back of the tongue and balancing the wine’s sweetness.
  • All-Purpose White Wine Glass: The small, U-shaped bowl of a white wine glass helps to preserve a wine’s aroma, and the longer stem helps to maintain its cool temperature.
  • Burgundy Glass: Burgundy glasses have a large bowl with a narrow top, which directs flavor to the tip of the tongue and aroma to the nose—perfect for a complex, flavor-packed Burgundy.
  • Bordeaux Glass: The tallest red wine glass, a Bordeaux glass has a long stem and a broad bowl. Its height allows space for more oxygen to interact with the wine and soften the tart tannins.

Next, Get to Know Your Wines

The variety and range of wines you encounter when you’re selecting your flight might feel overwhelming. If you want to keep it simple, opt for a box like this one that does the research for you. Naked Wines works with more than 170 independent winemakers whose backgrounds range from prestigious estates to generational family vineyards. By cutting out the middlemen, Naked Wines delivers from the vineyard to your door at up to 60 percent off retail prices, without skimping on quality. This box is curated for you, so you and your guests can learn about the wines’ origins and pairings together. Plus, Naked Wines is offering $100 off just for The Pioneer Woman readers.

If you’re already an aficionado, start by looking for wines in your ideal price point, or choose a number of varietals from one winery you love when curating your flight. If you opt for the Naked Wines The Pioneer Woman wine box, here’s what you’ll need to know:

Rob McNeill California Brut NV

Rob McNeill California Brut NV

A medium-bodied, clean sparkling wine with notes of citrus, pear, and white flowers, this refined sparkler is delicate and effervescent.

David Akiyoshi Lodi Chardonnay 2021

David Akiyoshi Lodi Chardonnay 2021

This rich, robust white is full of toasty notes, as well as hints of green apple. A persistent, creamy finish makes this wine a brilliant partner to food.

Miriam California Riesling 2021

Miriam California Riesling 2021

This dry Riesling offers up stone fruits including ripe peach and apricot. A fleshier style of Riesling, it pairs well with traditional cheese plates, but can also carry through an entire meal.

Matt Parish Contra Costa Rosé of Carignan & Mourvèdre 2021

Matt Parish Contra Costa Rosé of Carignan & Mourvèdre 2021

An onion-skin-pink wine made from Carignan and Mourvèdre, this bold, dry rosé offers up rose petals and bright, tart cherries. Drink this beauty with light fish entrées, chicken dishes, or even on its own as an apéritif.

D.H. Elliott California Pinot Noir 2021

D.H. Elliott California Pinot Noir 2021

A medium-bodied red with notes of fresh raspberry and strawberry, this Pinot Noir is a classic representation of this much-beloved varietal. Serve it lightly chilled alongside duck or roast chicken.

Brothers Miller French Camp Vineyards Meritage 2020

Brothers Miller French Camp Vineyards Meritage 2020

A Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec, this elegant, barrel-aged wine delivers dark, red fruits and a long, lingering finish. It’s an excellent match for dry-aged steaks, lamb dishes, and other red meat.

Naked Wines believes that great wine should be an everyday pleasure, and not a privilege. In that spirit, their customers (or Angels, as Naked Wines calls them), fund collaborations with winemakers worldwide through a $40 monthly deposit that they can use to purchase any wine at Angel pricing. If you sign up to be a Naked Wines Angel, you’ll always save up to 60 percent on retail prices, receive premium gift bottles each month, get shipping included on all orders over $200, and enjoy a 100 percent refund guarantee on every wine, including the half-dozen bottles in the Naked Wines The Pioneer Woman box. Plus, you can feel confident knowing your monthly contribution is helping winemakers around the world focus on making great wines, not on distribution or sales.

Now, You’re Ready for the 5 Ss

Now that you’ve met the wines, it’s time to taste! Wines should be sampled in order of light to full in body and light to dark in color. Begin with the sparkling and end with the darkest, fullest wine. When tasting, follow the Ss: see, swirl, sniff, sip, and savor.

Look at the wine first (see). Hold it up against a white surface. How would you describe its color? If it is a white, is it pale yellow, deep yellow, or barely pigmented at all? If it is a red, is it deep red, or more brown in color? Color can help establish a wine’s age: as they mature, white wines can evolve from pale yellow to amber, reds can shift from purple to brown hues, and rosés can go from blush pink to orange or yellow.

Next, swirl the wine. The teardrops that fall down the sides can reveal a lot about a wine (slow, thick drops indicate a wine that is fuller in body, or higher in alcohol, while teardrops that fall quickly, or “sheet,” point to a wine that is lean and lower in alcohol). Swirling also helps to release a wine’s natural aromas.

Sniff the wine next, placing your nose just barely into the rim of the glass. Pick out three fruits that you detect first, followed by three items that have nothing to do with fruit. Some common descriptors of fruits that are associated with white wine are pineapple, lemon, and peach. Red wines often give off aromas that are similar to tart cherry, blackberry, and red currant. Secondary notes can be things as diverse as white flowers, crushed stone, and even pencil shavings.

Sip the wine next. Does the first impression you get of the wine match the notes you noticed on the nose? Do you detect the presence of oak, which often has a vanilla characteristic? Does the wine linger on the palate, or does it disappear quickly? This indicates whether a wine has a short or long finish. Does the wine feel a little hot at the back of the palate? This is a sign that it may be higher in alcohol.

After you’re done sipping your wine, don’t forget the final S: savor. Enjoy the wines you’ve selected, circling back to your favorites, comparing notes, and determining what qualities are compelling to you personally.

Click below to claim your $100 voucher to purchase this exclusive The Pioneer Woman x Naked Wines Tasting 6-Pack for just $39.99 (shipping included)!

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