Go ahead and admit it, you are one of those people who have a bottle or two of wine sitting on top of your refrigerator or tucked away in a closet waiting for the “right” time to open it! It is a common myth that all wine gets better with age when in reality, very little of the wine made today is destined for long aging, save a handful of very expensive cabernet sauvignon or the sweet desert wines coming from Sauternes, Germany and Austria. Even these require near perfect storage conditions where temperature and humidity allow the wine to age slowly such as in a good wine cellar. While there are a few other exceptions, most wine is made to be enjoyed as soon, or at most, a year or so after you purchase it. Storing wine in a warm place such as the top of the refrigerator may add style to you kitchen but will cause the wine to age rapidly, giving it a “cooked” taste which is fine for Marsala but nasty for merlot.
With summer now in full swing, its time to grab your corkscrew because what time could be more right than now? Summer wine parties are a great way for building new friendships and renewing old ones. You can choose a theme where everyone brings the same varietal or just have everyone bring a bottle of wine and a favorite dish to see how each wine enhances (or diminishes) the taste of the food. You could also throw a costume party where everyone dresses up as a bunch of grapes and brings a six pack of beer, but where is the fun in that!?
Have each guest bring a bottle of wine and before opening them, place each bottle in a paper wine bag and write a number on each bag. Some of your guests will be surprised that their favorite wine of the evening was not theirs and only a few will be likely to guess which wine they brought.
These “blind tastings” are a great way to improve your palate and sensory skills and it is amazing how many different aromas and tastes a group of people can derive from a single wine.
Glassware cannot be overemphasized for serious tasting. It is not necessary to run out and spend $50 each on special tasting glasses but choose ones that are tulip shaped with enough volume to swish the wine thoroughly volatilizing as much aroma as possible. If you do not have enough glassware to go around, have everyone bring a few of their own so you can evaluate several wines side by side. Keep the pours small, 2-3 oz., which is enough to analyze several wines without having the alcohol make you think more of placing a lampshade on your head instead of the wine.
Most importantly, wine is made to enjoy so what are you waiting for?