May I see the wine list?
You can easily host a wine tasting party in your home for $20 per guest. I’ve done some legwork for you and found 10 bottles of wine that will come in just below $180, or $15 each for 12 guests. That leaves a $60 budget for bread (get some French loaves the day of the tasting), crackers (buy unsalted as they’re better for cleansing the palate), cheese (stick with mild cheeses, again to cleanse the palate), fruit (grapes are suitable, other berries serve double duty: great to eat and you can smell them to remind yourself of the aromas), and napkins.
Start with Stoneleigh Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2007 from New Zealand ($21.35 at Firefly Fine Wines and Ales). It’s a good example of the variety (read: type of grape). It is high in acidity so it will be a tart and racy start to your night.
Follow this with Mission Hill Five Vineyards Pinot Grigio 2006 from Kelowna ($16.99 at BC Liquor Stores). You might smell some tropical fruit, pear, apple or citrus, even hints of honey. The flavour will blast your taste buds with its tangy zip.
Next, uncork a Balthasar Ress Rheingau Riesling 2006 from Germany ($18.15 at Firefly Fine Wines and Ales). This sweet wine will be a change of gears. It is floral, with a fresh spring smell. It has a more velvety mouthfeel than the thinner wines tasted so it makes a great contrast.
The use of oak in winemaking is something that is talked about a lot, but hard for newbies to understand. I suggest you round out your whites of the night with two Chardonnays: one with and one without oak.
First, try Township 7 Un-Oaked Chardonnay 2006 from the Okanagan Valley ($21.50 at Firefly Fine Wines and Ales). The nose is a bit deceiving to your senses. You may smell some tropical fruit, like pineapple and citrus like orange or tangerine. Then when you taste it, it’s pretty mellow: not the Tang-like drink your brain may have been expecting after whiffing this one. It’s common for wines to trick your senses this way, so this is a great example of how wine tasters need to retrain their senses.
Follow up with RH Phillips Chardonnay 2004 from California ($14.85 at Firefly Fine Wines and Ales). This one was aged in oak barrels. Oak will typically give wine aromas of vanilla, clove, hazelnut or smoke. This one has an earthy smell like mushrooms or minerals and some herbal hints. You may notice some butterscotch on the finish.
Now it’s time for a set of reds. You should open the reds at least an hour before your guests arrive to allow them to breathe. The bitter taste from the tannins (from the skins of grapes: what makes reds red) will mellow out when they oxidize. Sit the bottles somewhere cool, you want to serve them at Depression-era room temperature: about 18°C.
Kick off your red run of the gauntlet with Mt. Boucherie Pinot Noir 2005 from Kelowna ($21.25 at Firefly Fine Wines and Ales). This red grape can ripen in cooler climates, so we can grow it well in BC, and in Washington, Oregon and Northern California. You can smell black current, blackberry, maybe even cranberry and a peppery kick. Don’t forget to swirl this wine: it might seem harsh or tart if you don’t take care to get some oxygen to those tannins.
Move on to Casal Thaulero Sangiovese 2006 from the Abruzzo region of Italy ($11.15 at Firefly Fine Wines and Ales). You might smell dark chocolate, cherry, a hint of sulphur. Sangiovese is known as a medium-bodied red. You may find this wine polarizes your tasters – some lovin’ it and some spitting it out. It’s a great conversation wine and a steal of a deal, so why not? Everyone loves controversy.
Keep up your bargain shopping with Wild Horse Canyon Merlot 2006, bottled in Oliver BC, but with grapes from BC, Washington and California ($12.95 at BC Liquor Stores). This sassy wine has a spicy, peppery nose and a dark berry flavour. Nothing special about the finish, but overall it’s an approachable wine at a great price.
Add some complexity with Kanawinka Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 from the Limestone Coast of Australia ($19.60 at Firefly Fine Wines and Ales). You may smell cherry pie, black current or other dark berries, even a hint of mint. It’s a smooth drink with a mild finish.
For a grand finale to your tasting night, end with Perdriel Punto Final Malbec 2006 from Argentina ($21.30 at Firefly Fine Wines and Ales). Malbec has come into its own in Argentina, and this generous and masculine wine is no exception. You can get dark fruit, cherry, tobacco and vanilla on the nose. It will explode in wonderful velvety flavour and should leave your guests with black-toothed grins of guilty pleasure.