A cheap wine tasting party is great way to host a get-together even though funds may be a bit tight during these challenging economic times. It’s a nice way to gather friends and neighbors in a fun and informal atmosphere and it doesn’t require a lot of time to prepare. Over the years my husband and I have hosted a few of cheap wine tasting parties. They’re always fun and our guests really look forward to them.
Excellent value-priced wines from $8.00 to $18.00 that don’t have that lasting “cheap wine headache” effect can be found at your local wine store or even the grocery store. Don’t worry if you’re not an expert with wine; research wines on the Internet beforehand to get an idea or ask a friend who might have more wine tasting experience to help you. Then, purchase a few different bottles a few weeks before your party and test them out for yourself. Go with what you like as long as it’s a nice variety and a mix of reds and whites.
Have fun planning your party! Send out a “Save the Date” email or postcard to let your guests know that a party is on the horizon. Then, about 10 days before the date of the party, send out invitations either by email or by post. Your invitations can be store-bought or custom made, if you’re creative. Here’s a Cheap Wine Tasting party invitation that I wrote for a party that my husband and I hosted (feel free to copy or modify if you’d like).
A “Cheap Wine Tasting” we thought sounded just right. It’s a great way to spend a Saturday night! The summer is over and the weather looks clear. A “Cheap Wine Tasting” is needed (there will also be beer!) There’ll be heavy hors d’oeuvres and maybe some cake, so no one should get a “cheap wine headache.” Many of you may ask, “What can we bring?” Well a cheap bottle of wine would be just the thing! So, don’t hesitate to reserve this date! Don’t “whine”…RSVP Today!
Create a Cheap Wine Tasting Sheet for your guests. Let your guests know what kind of wine they will taste by creating a Wine Tasting scorecard to hand out at your party. The scorecard can be as simple as a sheet of paper or as elaborate as a folded brochure. For our Cheap Wine Tasting party we created a single fold brochure on white copy paper and titled it the “Wine-O Guide.” We included the name and description of each wine starting with the reds and then the whites (we had a total of 6 wines). A check box was placed next to each wine with “Excellent,” “Good,” and “Cheap” for our guests to evaluate their wine tasting experiences.
If you don’t feel creative, then another idea is to have note pads with pens for your guests to jot down their own wine tasting impressions.
Also included in our “Wine-O Guide” was a wine facts and trivia page. A simple Internet search will provide plenty of wine facts and wine trivia to include in your own guide. It’s always nice to include some information for your guests who may not know that much about wines (and were afraid to ask!). It’s also a good way to get your guests to mingle by sharing their answers with each other.
Serve food. When you’re serving drinks, you should also serve food. No need for anyone to get tipsy while tasting wine. Whether store bought or prepared by you, there should be enough food for everyone to enjoy. Some suggestions that we have served at our parties are:
Cheese and cracker platter– a variety of soft and hard cheeses with small rounds of bread and a variety of crackers. Olives, cornichons and clusters of seedless grapes can also be served with the platter.
Cold cut platter – a variety of cold cuts and sliced cheeses with dinner rolls for small bite-sized make-your-own sandwiches. A relish and condiment plate should accompany the platter.
Mini-meatballs- mini meatballs in a red wine sauce can be served in a crock pot or chafing dish and makes a great hot appetizer or mini sandwich.
Assortment of frozen oven-ready hors d’oeuvres –can easily be popped into the oven and served on a platter.
Nuts – Place small bowls of an assortment of nuts in different gathering areas of your home or outdoors on the patio.
Desserts – A couple of pre-sliced cakes or a cookie assortment tray are always crowd pleasers. Since wine and chocolate are natural companions, place a small tray of different types of chocolates (or chocolate covered strawberries) alongside your other desert choices.
The date has been set and the invitations have gone out. Now, it’s time to choose the cheap wines for your cheap wine tasting party. Choose at least 2 reds and 2 whites but not more than a total of 6 different wines; for example for reds, you might choose a Merlot and a Sangiovese. For whites, you might choose a Pinot Grigio and a Sauvignon Blanc. You might also want to include a dry Rose’.
Purchase enough wine. A standard bottle of wine yields four glasses. Depending upon the number of guests and their preferences, they may enjoy just a tasting of each wine or a glass. You can regulate how much wine is poured at a time by using a wine pourer for each tasting bottle.
Offer other beverages. Not everyone drinks wine. Make sure that you have beer on hand as well as non-alcoholic beverages such as water, coffee and soft drinks.
Wine glasses: Wine glasses come in various sizes and styles. Inexpensive wine glasses can be purchased at many stores; try your local dollar store first to see if they carry wine glasses. Or, if you have a nice collection of wine glasses, use them; they don’t even have to all match!
Setting the Mood for the Cheap Wine Tasting
Wine Tasting Table – Setting up a wine tasting table can be done practically anywhere. A folding table adorned with a colorful tablecloth can be set up in any room or on an outdoor patio, weather permitting. Or, set up your wine tasting on your kitchen or dining room table, or on a center island or bar.
You should have chillers for the white wines. If you don’t have individual chillers, use a large ice bucket and place the whites all together in it.
Each wine should be accompanied by a small card that describes the wine so that your guests know what they are tasting.
Open one of each tasting bottle; if you have extra bottles of each wine, don’t open them until you see that the first bottles are nearly empty.
Decorations - Fresh flowers always make a festive statement at a party. Buy bunches of mixed flowers and place them in an assortment of vessels. For example, take a skinny vase or drinking glass and place it inside a wine gift bag and fill the vessel with flowers. Or, use an empty wine bottle as a vase. Or, take a wine glass and place little flowers in it…use your imagination! And make sure to put flowers in many of the gathering areas of your home including the powder room!
Music – The right music can make the party. Set the mood of your cheap wine tasting with music that your guests will enjoy. Don't have the music on so loud that your guests have to shout over it. We like smooth jazz, so we usually start out the party with some very upbeat jazz and then slow it down towards the end of the evening.
Other fun stuff - Raffle off some “Cheap” wine items. Part of the fun of a cheap wine tasting is to raffle off some “cheap” items during the party. Your guests stay interactive and it’s always nice to win a prize! When your guests arrive, ask them to write their name on a piece of paper and place the names in a basket or a wine gift bag for the raffle.
We often go to the local dollar store or an off-price store to find some interesting inexpensive cheap wine giveaways.
Some ideas are:
A Cheap Wine Tasting party should be enjoyable for everyone, including the hosts! Remember to tell your guests to drink responsibly. This should be a fun event designed to bring people together while enjoying good, value-priced wines. Chances are that your party might be so successful that you’ll want to make it an annual cheap wine tasting event!