Is There a Correct Order to Serve the Wines?


Question from Gina: I want to have a wine-tasting party. Is there a correct order to serve the wines?

Reply: Hi, Gina. Thanks for writing! How great – I know it will be really fun! Tasting order is pretty simple:

Whether it’s a party or a formal tasting, it’s smart to serve the wines from light to dark and dry to sweet. The wines with deeper color are usually “bigger”, or heavier, than the lighter colored ones. If you taste the big wine first, the lighter wine seems almost flavorless. It applies to white wines, too. If the Sauvignon Blanc is paler than the Chardonnay, unless it’s unusually assertive in flavor, serve it first. 

Dry is the opposite of sweet (it doesn’t mean sour, which is a sign of a spoiled wine. It just means there’s so little sugar in the wine that it’s unnoticeable). If you taste a sweet wine, followed by a dry one, the dry wine tastes sour.

TIP!  The same theory works with food and wine pairing.  If you pair sweet food with dry wine the wine will taste sour.  The wine should be at least as sweet as the food.

Speaking of pairings, you might want to serve a little something to complement each wine. If you prefer a low-impact evening, you could have each of your friends bring a favorite pairing, which could make for a really fun contest. Everyone could vote on the best pairing! If you want to evaluate the wines, you might have everyone taste the wines without any food first. You’ll be surprised by how much the food changes the wine and perhaps your preferences! 

Other things to add to the fun: 
  • Make sure you have enough wine! There are about twelve 2-oz. pours per bottle
  • Get some wine charms so folks can keep track of their glasses
  • Brown bag the wines for a “blind” tasting. It’s amazing what you don’t know, when you don’t know! You could have a multiple-choice “test” and give a prize to the person who comes the closest to guessing what the wine is. 
  • Download a little information about each wine. The winery website is usually on the back label and they’ll have “wine maker notes” available there. 
  • Have a battle of the varieties or the region. Taste three Chardonnays from Sonoma and three from the Willamette Valley. Or three brands of Sauvignon Blanc from the same region to see if there’s a consensus on the “winner”.

 Anybody want to add any suggestions? Gina – I hope you’ll write back to let us know how it goes. You’ll probably come up with suggestions of your own! Cheers! 

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2 responses to “Is There a Correct Order to Serve the Wines?

  1. Dana Roark

    I have a wine rack it will hold about 240 bottles, my question is I go to three different wineries, and lots of flavors. Do I mix the three wineries or seperate the wineries, and/or flavors? Not sure what will be best! Please advise.

    • Hi, Dana. Thanks for commenting. There are many points of view on this. I tend to group by variety or flavor profile because when I look for a bottle of wine it’s usually for a specific purpose: a refreshing aperitif; something to go with a grilled steak, etc.

      Another way I group the wines is by price point. In my house we keep wine in two places. One is for relatively inexpensive wine for every day use or even cooking. That wine is up for grabs any time, no questions asked. The other is for special bottles and neither my husband or I open one of those wines without discussing it first. It’s a good way to keep the peace in the household!

      There’s no right or wrong to it and you don’t need different storage temperatures for different wines. For all wines you need a cool, dark place avoiding fluctuation as much as possible. Cork-finished bottles need to be kept sideways or upside down. Lots of people store their wine in the kitchen which isn’t a good choice because of the fluctuation. I hope that helps! Cheers! Nancy

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