The more wines you taste, the more you will learn about wine and be able to find your palate. One of the easiest ways to do this is to start a wine tasting club. We did just that three years ago and I can honestly say it has been the most educational activity I have experienced in my world of wine. The beauty of a wine tasting club is that you will be able to taste many more wines at less cost than you would as an individual. A tasting club enables you to taste wines side by side; this is the best way to learn the various nuances of a varietal’s characteristics.
Here are some ideas on how to organize your own wine tasting club. Gather some five to ten wine friends and host a wine tasting party to discuss the idea of the wine tasting club. Purchase six wines of the same varietal and, because it is hopefully the start of a club, choose an easy varietal that is familiar to all. Example: Six Zinfandel wines from the 2010 vintage or six Sauvignon Blanc wines from the 2011 vintage.
It is more fun and I believe educational if you do a blind tasting of the wines. The wines need to be bagged and numbered 1 through 6. Each member of the club must have six proper wine classes. Members can provide their own glasses. The host will need to provide a wine scorecard of some sort. Here is link to two types of scoring cards. Water, split cups, bread sticks, and pencils should also be provided. Our club members use this checklist to prepare for a tasting.
Commence the tasting by passing around the wine bottles with each member pouring approximately two to three ounces of wine in his or her glass. Each member sniffs and tastes each of the wines and scores them using the scorecard. When the tasting and scoring is completed, have the members discuss the wines in general. In our group this is the most educational and interesting part of our tastings. Following the discussion, the host tallies the scores and then removes the wines from the bags. At this point the host hands out a sheet with each wine described, listing the price and where purchased. If there are any significant reviews or point ratings, those should be included in the handout.
Once the tasting is concluded it is time to decide who will host the next meeting and what wine will be selected for the tasting. We go around the table and each member suggests a wine. Because the purpose of the club is to learn about wine, it is a good idea to try wines from around the world. How about wines from the northern region of the Rhone Valley? Or Spanish Tempranillo wines from the Ribera del Duero. There are ten members in our club and we each contribute $20 to the pot. The host uses that amount to purchase the wines for the next tasting.
It is also a very good idea and enjoyable to host a dinner or a lunch afterwards. We rotate this activity so that each member throughout the years hosts the wine tasting and, in our case, prepares a gourmet lunch. We also found a local restaurant that will let use a room to do our wine tasting in. Following that we order lunch or dinner depending on the situation. We hold six meetings a year.
Lastly, spread the word on the results of you wine tasting. It helps to find the likes and dislikes of common wine drinkers verses the Robert Parkers and James Laubes of the wine critic world. You can do that by sending your results to the blog our wine tasting club created. We focus on the bargain category wines, but we will post any results of a wine club on our blog GoodCheapVino.com. Happy wine tasting!