The standard hen party has been unjustly labelled as a wild night out when the bride-to-be and her girlfriends party the night away and drink too much of their favourite wine. That’s not fair. You can drink at home, too. …But seriously, not all hen parties are the height of debauchery. Some brides prefer a quieter occasion, like afternoon tea or a short weekend away by the sea with her best friends.
You may be the maid of honour tasked with coming up with an amazing hen party, and wine tasting is a great idea—it might already be one the bride’s hobbies, or something she’s always wanted to try. Or she might just really like wine. Either way, here’s how to host a wine tasting hen party.
Wine tasting is usually seen as one of the classiest past times, and it can be a lot of fun too. It’s entertaining, it brings friends together in a relaxed atmosphere, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to learn about the history of wine making and all the work that goes into it. Also—wine.
Firstly, when organising your wine tasting party you need to think about a theme. This can be a certain country—Italy? France?—or region, or something else; for example, “Vertical Testing” is when you test a variety of wines from the same vineyard or maker, and “Horizontal Testing” is when you test wines from a certain vintage (aka a certain year) but which are by different vineyards and makers. You could even opt for a seasonal theme—traditionally, white wine is a summer wine, and red wine is a winter wine. If you want to stick to tradition, this may inform your decision.
What You’ll Need:
- Once you’ve decided on your theme, you need to select your wines. If you can afford it, it’s advised that you choose wines from different price ranges so that you can taste the difference between cheaper and more expensive brands. It’s perfectly fine to choose a mix of red wines and white wines. Just make sure you buy enough for all of your guests to taste each one—one bottle of wine is usually enough for up to 10 people to have a glass each. Remember that you’ll want variety. Consider personalised wine labels to go with your selection!
- Each of your guests will need one clear Bordeaux glass each (the long stem keeps the wine from being heated by your hand, and the clear glass lets you see the colour and quality of the wine within), though if you wanted you could give everyone one glass for red wines and another for white wines. You’re not going to have a fresh glass for every wine you taste—imagine if you had five guests and five wines! That’s a lot of glasses at the end of the night.
- Corkscrews and/or wine opener.
- A spittoon, if you think your guests will want to spit out the wine after they’ve tasted it.
- A chart or a simple piece of paper where your guests can note down their impressions of each wine, including flavours and scents. Is it earthy? Smooth? Crisp?
- Snacks for the night of the party. You shouldn’t really eat while wine tasting, as it will play havoc with your taste buds, but bread and crackers are a good idea between each tasting, and after the tasting everyone may be hungry. Popular snack foods include cheese, olives, dried fruit, and breadsticks.
Once everything is organised, all you need to do is invite everyone. You can do this formally with a fancy invitation, or informally with a quick phone call or text, depending on your preference. Make sure to specify to everyone if they should eat before they arrive, or if there will be a small meal before the wine tasting, or if everyone will eat afterward.
- On the night of the party, before your guests arrive, gather your wines together somewhere everyone will feel cosy. This could be at the dining room table, or on a coffee table in the sitting room.
- Set up your wine selection from the darkest wine to the lightest; darker wines tend to be the heaviest, so you’ll want to start with the lightest. However, if you have a sweet dessert wine you should leave that one until last even if it is a lighter colour. Consider an ice bucket so you don’t have to run to and from the fridge all night.
- Arrange your bread and crackers on the table, and add a jug of ice water for anyone who needs it.
- Consider playing some music to fit your theme to get your guests into the feel of the party.
- Think about the little touches: decorate to fit your theme, like Parisian glamour for a French-vineyard inspired party; personalise some napkins or coasters to mark the day.
The Wine Tasting:
When it comes to the actual wine tasting, ask your guests to simply swirl the contents around the glass and then hold it up to their nose and inhale. Let the wine breathe, and then take a sip. Ask everyone to hold the wine in their mouth for a few moments before swallowing or spitting out. Then everyone can note down their impressions, including what the wine looks like (Clear? Bright?), help themselves to a bite of bread and crackers, and then it’s onto the next wine. If your guests have just one glass each, don’t be tempted to rinse them out after every wine you taste. The smallest amount of water can dilute the wine!
Transform your wine tasting hen party into a full girls’ night in by organising a meal after the tasting—here you can all finish off what wine you left. And make it even more fun by adding in little games. For example, when everyone is acquainted with the different wine tastes, you could have one person pour out some wine and everyone has to guess which one it is.
Think about little gifts to go for when the party comes to an end—wine stoppers, bottle openers, personalised wine glasses. It’s sure to be a night everyone will remember.