It wasn’t that many years ago that some people thought that if you enjoyed a glass of wine but also knew a bit about the subject of oenology – the study of wine – it meant you were a bit of a snob.

Well it’s very different now as drinking wine is a favourite pastime with many people and you don’t have to keep it to mealtimes. A glass of wine is ideal as an aperitif or just as a pleasant drink to relax with after a hard day at work.

You don’t have to know a lot about wine to host a wine tasting party that will be an enjoyable evening, or afternoon, for your friends and family. Such an event is simple to organise and is nowhere near as time-consuming as hosting a dinner party. Many people enjoy the chance to relax and chat in good company while exploring a range of wines that they may not have come across before.

There aren’t many hard and fast rules for hosting a wine tasting party, just a few things to think about when you’re doing the initial planning.

Decide on the wine

Yes, it sounds obvious, but it’s worth thinking through what you’re going to serve your guests. You might want to concentrate on a specific colour of wine, so your choices are self-evident as in white, rosé and red. Alternatively, you could choose to offer a range of options, beginning with white then going through to rosé and red as the party progresses.

Whatever you decide you can be sure that your guests will appreciate the trouble you have taken so they can explore different tastes from single or blended grape styles, light whites to robust reds and wines from different countries.

Organise your glassware

When you’ve decided what you’re going to serve, and suggestions will follow, make sure you have the most appropriate glasses available. Using Dartington Crystal glasses will add a real touch of class to your event, and there are plenty from which to choose. Remember, you are hosting a special occasion, so the quality and styles of your glasses for different wine types is an important part of the whole process.

The usual types have smaller bowls for white wines and larger ones for reds, but that’s not a hard and fast rule. Lighter whites can benefit from a taller glass, to help maintain a cool temperature, but deeper whites such as oak-aged Chardonnays will benefit from a wider bowl.

Deep, mature reds, such as an older Burgundy or a Bordeaux will benefit from a wider bowl, so you can get the full aroma, and the larger surface area will help the ethanol in the drink to evaporate. Experiment with options before your party and see what type of glass best suits your wines.

Think about themes

There are so many options when it comes to theming your wine tasting party that you might have to host many more to get through them all!

You could consider presenting a specific type of wine, for example, a Sauvignon Blanc, from several different countries. Think California, France, South Africa, Chile and New Zealand to start with, then add in a couple from other countries to give your guests the opportunity to experience some different tastes.

Or you could stick to reds, starting with a light Beaujolais Nouveau and progressing through to the meaty tastes and smells of an Italian Barolo or approaches to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from different winemakers.

You might decide to go through a selection of white, rosé and red, so start with the lightest first before moving through the gears and ending up with a stonkingly powerful and complex red.

To eat or not to eat?

Provide some food. Just nibbles, so that guests aren’t drinking on an empty stomach. Plain crackers are useful to clear the palate between different tastings, and small dishes of cured meats and cheeses can be a way for people to enjoy some different tastes without overpowering the object of the evening – the wines. Cheeses are often paired with wines so offer some relatively bland ones, such as a creamy goat cheese, and some stronger flavours such as Stilton or Roquefort. Breadsticks work well too.

Enjoy the party

The joy of wine is that you have such an amazingly wide choice. From the vast commercial estates to the tiny vineyards that produce small quantities but rich tastes, the world is your oyster. And if you do have some oysters, find a good white wine to complement them!