Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wine Tastings From The Cheif Wineaux


With the kids back in school and vacations over we begin the ritual of settling into fall.  With the leaves turning and the air chilly, what better time to get friends and family together for a wine tasting.  It’s been my experience that if your theme is well chosen, even the non-wine drinkers, much to their surprise, often discover a palette for wine they didn’t know they had; it’s a real thrill!  While there are literally countless tasting themes you can choose from and/or dream up, I have 4 favorites that have been successful for fall parties. 

Red Wine Varietal Tasting

My favorite fall theme is one based on grape type or variatal.  The common misperception is that all reds are heavy and full of tannins like a cabernet sauvignon; this is where the fun begins.  With any wine tasting, the standard is to start tasting with the lightest and move to heaviest.  I typically start with a Beaujolais, followed by Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and/or Syrah, Merlot & Cabernet Sauvignon and include several white wines for those that just don’t drink red.  I consider Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand are my favorite-crisp, with loads of tropical fruit) and Chardonnay my go tos.

Pink Ribbon Wine Tasting

October is National Breast Cancer month and an excellent time to host a pink only tasting!  With pink tasting, I focus on show casing some of the amazing rose wines  and Blanc de Noir (white from red) sparkling wines and champagnes on the market.  When choosing the rose wines I typically choose wines from France as they have some of the best tasting a varied rose wines on the market.

Serious Tasting for Wineauxs

If you are like me, I have a bunch of friends that are big into wine.  When catering to a wine enthusiast bunch, I pick a country of origin, say France or Italy, and line up a tasting based on different regions.  For instance, a red from Bordeaux isn’t the same as a red from Burgundy.  Bordeaux reds are made using predominantly cabernet grapes making them hearty (and delicious) while Burgundy red are typically made using pinot noir grape and are lighter. 

Champagne Tasting

Champagne tastings are my favorite to incorporate into Holiday events.  With so many great champagnes and sparkling wines to choose from, the only challenge is narrowing down what to serve.  I generally choose bubbly from different countries to really show case the differences in style.  I start with a Cava (from Spain or Greece as a rule), move to an Italian Prosseco, followed by a Napa Sparkling wine and end with legendary champagne like Veuve Clicquot. 

Once I have chosen my tasting theme, and my menu, it’s time to think logistics.  I love my parties to be about mingling, so I set up two stations; a wine station in the breakfast room and a food station in the dining room.  This keeps everyone moving about nicely rather that in the kitchen all night.   In front of each wine, I use a Placetile to indicate the corresponding wine (my favorite is the oh-so-elegant Fleur di Lis).  Likewise, I use Placetiles as buffet labels to label each food and suggest what wine/s each pairs well with.  Cheese is always a big part of my spread, so the Placetile cheesetiles alleviate the guessing game and allow me to make pairing recommendations.  The tiles work like a charm and I look like the hostess with the mostess!   Lastly, I like to make a tasting notes sheet that lists the wine/champagne you are serving with space for your guests to make notes.   I print four to a page and cut down to keep it small and manageable. 

The most important part of any wine or champagne tasting party is to have fun and make the experience enjoyable for your guests.  Armed with these tips I believe anyone can have a smashingly successful tasting party!

What more info on hosting a fabulous wine tasting?  Feel free to email Angela at

 Angela W. Cox
Chief Executive Wineaux, Sommelier
The Wineaux Shop
 162 Main Street
Annapolis, MD 21401
410 990-1515

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