Planning a Wine Party

By Kori ~ November 3rd, 2009.

Having fun at a wine tasting dinner partyThere are as many different types of wine parties as there are wines. For some people, it can be intimidating to know how to plan a wine party. At a recent wine auction party at the home of our good friends, Darren and Mardee, I was talking with another guest who wanted to plan a wine party but had a number of questions about the type of party to plan, what wine to serve, and how much wine to have on hand. Before I go any further, let me just say that there is no right or wrong here, but hopefully some of these ideas and suggestions will help her and others who may have similar questions.


Types of Wine Parties

  • Wine tasting dinners – For those looking to pair wine with food for a small group of guests, sit-down wine tasting dinners are an excellent option. Regular readers know that we Wine Peeps host a monthly wine tasting dinner. In fact, this Friday we will be hosting our 77th wine tasting dinner. We serve six bottles of wine for eight people, tasting the wines throughout the course of the evening paired with a four-course meal. For a more complete explanation of how we set up these dinners, visit our Tasting Dinners page.
  • Stand-up wine party – For those interested in tasting more wines and having more guests without serving a full meal, a stand-up (or walk-around) wine party works well. Either the host provides all of the wines or each guest is asked to bring a bottle to share. Generally, hors d’oeuvres or small plates are served which helps guests clear their palates and keep them from taking in too much alcohol on an empty stomach.
  • Wine auction party – For those looking for a fundraising idea, a wine auction party is a great option. I thought that the recent wine auction party we attended was an excellent format for combining fun and low-pressure fundraising. The hosts selected the charity, and each guest (or couple) was asked to bring two bottles of the exact same wine. When they arrived, the hosts took both bottles, bagging one up and setting the second aside. When all the guests had arrived, the bagged bottles were set out for tasting. Each bottle had been given an alternate name (you could also use numbers or letters) for identification purposes while the guests tasted. Next to each bottle was a bid sheet. Guests were encouraged to bid on their favorite wines. Most bids started at $5 or $10 and went up in $5 increments. At an appointed time, bidding was stopped, and the identity of the wines and the winning bidders were announced. The winning bidder of each wine took home the second unopened bottle of that wine.


Oftentimes, wine parties have themes. It is certainly not necessary but can be a fun way to try a lot of different wines that have a common thread. Each of our monthly wine tasting dinners has a theme, generally centered on a varietal and/or region (i.e. Washington Merlot, Australian Shiraz, etc).

Basic theme ideas include: red wines, white wines, rosé wines, sparkling wines, dessert wines, varietals (i.e. Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, etc), countries or regions (i.e. Italy, California, Walla Walla Valley, etc). For more thought-provoking themes, I recommend taking a look at some of the themes used in previous Wine Blogging Wednesdays such as “Today’s Wine Brought to You by the Letter ‘S’,” “Wine for Breakfast,” and “A Grape By Any Other Name.”

Along these same lines, additional options include blind tastings, vertical tastings, or horizontal tastings.

How Much Wine to Serve

Wine bottles bagged up for a blind tastingThe amount of wine that should be served really depends on the type of wine party you are having. As I mentioned earlier, for our monthly wine tasting dinner, we serve six bottles of wine for eight guests. We use measured pourers that pour 5/8 of an ounce which gives us 40 pours per bottle. To begin the evening, we pour three pours from each bottle in each glass which means that we have two additional pours per bottle per person for refills during the evening.

For stand-up parties, plan for about half a bottle per person. Each standard 750ml bottle of wine serves approximately five glasses, so a half bottle per person provides each guest with about two and a half glasses.


No matter which type of wine party you choose, and whether or not you have a theme, just keep in mind…


But, please remember to be a responsible host. Provide your guests with plenty of water, crackers, and a safe ride home if they need one.


Filed under: General Wine Information, Wine Activities/Events, Wine Tasting Dinners

Reader's Comments

  1. Lila Jackson | November 5th, 2009 at 9:04 am

    A wine tasting party is lots of fun. Just have to make arrangements for guests that have a little too much fun.

  2. Kori | November 11th, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    Thanks for commenting. I couldn’t agree more…the most important part of planning a party is being a responsible host and making arrangements for guests who’ve had too much.

  3. Carlos | March 6th, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    Kori, I have to tell you this wine thing is all new to me, thanks for your great ideas. I don’t know the critiria to grade the quality of the wine though. Do people rate the wines from excellent to ugh! but are there any guidelines to do the grading?

  4. Kori | March 12th, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    I’m excited that you are exploring the world of wine. It is great to have folks who are new to wine and anxious to learn. I think that one of my previous posts on Tasting Methodology should answer some of your questions: Hope it helps. Cheers!