by Ron Washam

How to Throw a Perfect Home Wine Tasting

More often than not, when I attend a wine tasting at a private home it’s disastrous. And not just because I was invited. A wine tasting seems like an easy affair, like oral sex with a Washington intern. Yet, without proper planning, your home wine tasting is likely to be a complete failure. Guests will depart making mental notes to answer all future invitations from you with a curt, “Pretend I’m dead.” Photos of the soirée will be sold on the Internet as snuff porn. Television reporters will describe the scene at natural disasters as “a grim reminder of that wine tasting at Larry’s house a few years ago.” You don’t want that. Instead, follow these instructions on How to Throw a Successful Wine Tasting.


It’s important to have a theme for your wine tasting. A theme ties the whole thing together. Without a theme, the party will seem to be missing something. It’s like a very ripe Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon without Brett. Just too fussy and unfamiliar. You want your party to be casual, relaxed, not like someone actually paid attention to it. Easy themes focus on variety, appellation or inseam. Try to be more creative. Here are a few suggestions:

Wines With Rude Names Tasting—It’s hard to think of another product that sells itself with insulting names. “Have you driven the new Mercedes Fuckwad lately?” “Apple is proud to announce the new iPrick4—Social Media Made Hard” “Hemorrhoids? Try new Preparation Rupert Murdoch! Really, It’s Not Invasion of Privacy.” But recent popular wine brands include Bitch, Fat Bastard, and If You See Kay. Coming soon, Wetback Red, Tranny Surprise and Dick Cheney. Invite your guests to seek out wines with nasty names to bring to your blind tasting. Imagine the fun when you announce, “Wilfred likes 2010 Barium Enema best!”

Celebrity Wines Tasting—Now that Brad and Angelina are doing it, you can bet there will be an onslaught of other celebrities producing their own wines. At least we know Brangelina’s won’t be in jugs. But who’s making the best wine? Is it Mel Gibson’s wonderful new Kosher Italian wine, Passion of the Lacryma Christi? Maybe it’s the legendary Benny Hill of Grace Shiraz. And I hear Tom Cruise has a rather big Beaune coming out soon. Let’s taste it blind!

Wines Aged in Odd Vessels Tasting—Oak, oak, oak and more oak, we’re all sick of oak. Wine doesn’t need to be aged in oak to be wine, oak is simply catnip for humans. We love to roll around in it. Why not explore wines aged in other vessels? Cement eggs, for example. My mother had cement eggs, which is why I’m good at mixers. Amphorae are making a comeback. Wine amphorae are clay vessels buried in the ground, sort of like land mines. I was blown away by some. Other vessels are also being explored by natural winemakers, including termite mounds, old Orson Welles’ adult diapers, and lava lamps.


Don’t waste too much time on the glassware. Remember, there is an inverse relationship between how much a person spends on his glassware and how much he knows about wine. It’s Riedel’s Law: The more expensive the glass, the bigger the ass. If, for some inexplicable reason, you’ve invited a friend who shows up at your wine tasting with a little suitcase that holds his personal stemware cradled in velvet, offer him your engraved silver-plated fireplace matchstick container for the rest of the evening to “hold that giant stick up your butt.” Glassware should be clean and uniform, as should your guests, but don’t hold your breath.


It’s important to remind your invited guests, some of whom may not have attended a wine tasting before, of certain basic protocols. This will save you a world of embarrassment the evening of the event. Remind everyone not to wear perfume or cologne, while the ladies need to stuff their bras with unscented tissue. Also, it’s a good idea to encourage your guests to practice spitting so that they’ll be comfortable doing so at the tasting. Homeless people, Piers Morgan and Scientologists make wonderful practice targets. Wearing white is a common mistake, you should caution your guests, while Latex bondage apparel is absolutely spill-proof and fucking hot! Guests should never wet their fingers, rub them around the lips of the wine glasses and make annoying high-pitched sounds, unless they can adjust the levels of wine and perform “God Save the Queen.”


No one wants to look stupid at a blind tasting, but it’s your job as host to make sure they do. Guests want to rank the most expensive wine the highest in order to look knowledgeable, but nearly always choose an inexpensive wine as their favorite. “Well,” they inevitably say, “I know what I like.” Remind them that this is what pyromaniacs and pedophiles say. As guests arrive, take all of the wines into a private area where no one can see them except you. Remove the corks and take a big swig out of each bottle to “check it for cork taint.” Shove the corks into your underwear so that later, as a great party gag, you can drop your pants and have people check for taint cork. Also, remember to remove all the foils from the necks of the bottles as they might provide visual cues to the identities of the wines to knowledgeable wine people in attendance. OK, that was a joke, knowledgeable wine people don’t to go blind tastings at the homes of people like you. Get over it. Place each opened and tasted wine bottle in a plain brown bottle bag, or, if you don’t have any brown bags, large red uninflated party balloons will do. Tape the top of the bag so that the bottle cannot easily be removed and the wine can be poured. Have someone else number the bags randomly, remembering to place small marks somewhere on the bag so that you know what’s in each one but no one else does. The host is always supposed to cheat and know which wine is which. This is to demonstrate that he follows the same strict protocol as every major wine publication.


A home wine tasting is a stupid idea to begin with. But make it YOUR stupid idea. Remember that your guests didn’t come to learn, they came to get drunk. Dazzle them with your wine knowledge, obtained by cheating. Drop hip wine terminology into your conversation, but use the terms authoritatively. “Is it me, or is this wine reduced? I thought it sold for a lot more.” “I don’t see why this winemaker used MegaPurple when regular Purple would have done just fine.” “This wine has more esters than a Jewish retirement home.” How can your guests not be impressed?

If you follow my advice, your home wine tasting will be a major success. That is, you’ll never have to host one again.

Ron Washam is a recovering sommelier and former comedy writer, who also judges at many major wine competitions, whether he’s invited or not. He blogs regularly and rather pathethically at HoseMaster of Wine.