How to Host a Wine Tasting

Gourmet, Romulo YanesGourmet, Romulo YanesDanielle Pergament, Allure magazine

An interview with Kevin Zraly, the founder of Windows on theWorld Wint School in New York City and the author of
Kevin Zraly's Complete Wine Course (Sterling Epicure).

Narrow it down.
There are literally thousands of wines in the world, so start by focusing on a country, then a color, then a region: for example, Tuscan reds or Sanish Riojas, you could focus it even more by year (Napa Valley Cabernets from 2009) or by price (Argentinian Malbecs under $20). From there, a knowledgeable salesperson at a store with a large selection can help you choose your wines. Try for six different bottles. Any more can be hard ot keep track of.

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Run the numbers. You need about one bottle of wine for every 15 people, and each serving should be about an ounce and a half; you may want to buy extra if you're hosting dinner after the tasting. Ideally, you would sip each wine from a different glass.

Use your senses. Before you taste the wine, notice the color: White wine gets darker as it ages; red wine gets lighter. This is also the time to smell it-and not just sniff it, but really inhale deeply. I've heard that ninety-five percent of the taste is derived from the smell. If you have enough glasses, it's a great idea to pour all the different tastings before you drink any, so you can compare the colors and aromas of each.

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Start sipping. The order is important: The lightest goes first, the heaviest goes last-your salesperson can help with this, If you drink a heavy wine first, all the tannins and acids will stay on your tongue and overpower a lighter one. When you taste a wine, leave it in your mouth for three seconds. That will give you enough time to get a complete picture, Never reveal the prices of the bottles until everyone has tried them all.

Time to eat. It's not really necessary to drink or eat between tasting to cleanse the palate, but I like to serve water and Carr's water crackers. Once you decide on a favorite-and you won't all agree-bring out a few bottles to have with dinner. If it's a white, you can serve almost anything; if it's a red, you want something high in fat and protein, like meat or cheese, to break down the tannins.

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