Here are some ideas and thoughts on how to host a wine tasting party. There are of course many variations from the formal sit down, no talking wine evaluation events, to the more casual "brown paper bag nights". All of course is a good way to enjoy friends and wine.

Choosing a Theme The first step is determining the guests' level of expertise. If most of them are not that familiar with wine, a simple theme for the event is a good idea. Good themes include tasting one kind of wine (perhaps Merlot, Cabernet or Chardonnay) or wines that go well with a particular food.

The Atmosphere of Your Tasting Decide on the seriousness of the tasting. Will guests simply discuss the wine, will they write down notes, will they try to guess each type in a "blind" tasting, or is it a more casual atmosphere? The group can vote on their favorite and why they liked particular wines.

If you and your friends are serious about wine, including elements of a more formal tasting is a good choice. If your guests are mostly wine novices, keep things light and focus more on learning the different flavor components of the wine. Do you taste and smell the melon flavors, the tobacco, orange peel or oak?

For serious oenophiles, offer tasting sheets with scoring options and taste each flight of wines without discussion. Then rank them and compare notes. When tasting “blind” distribute the list of wines being tasted after first tasting, but before they are unveiled. See who can correctly identify the wines.

Choosing the Wine An easy way to choose the type of wine served is by deciding on one or more of the following: •    a single style of wine (white or red or one of each) •    wines from a particular region •    wines with a certain price range •    a single varietal type •    wines from the same maker but different vintages

Organizing the Wines Try not to serve more than six wines in any one flight. Another tip is to remember to plan for temperature and decanting variations. Work out a schedule ahead of time so you won't have to worry about this the night of the tasting. Remember to consider the order in which you should taste the wines. Some experts advise starting with the lightest wine and ending with the heaviest. A good wine merchant can offer advice on the order in which you should taste your wines.

Wine Glasses Each guest should have at least two clear wine glasses or as many glasses as wines you are tasting. They should be the same type of glass in order to compare the different aromas and flavors equally.  Also have a “spit cup” for each taster and a dump bucket or two for the table.

Accompanying the Wine Serve food and water with the wine. This helps to clear the palate, clarifying the taste of each wine. The food can be simple, such as a variety cheese and crackers, or if your affair is more casual, step it up a little and match some more adventuress foods to your wines.  Formal tastings do not include food until after all the wines are sampled.