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Wine Judging is the new Wine Tasting

Sep 27, 2013 11:54AM ● By Cate Reynolds
By Kimberly Cooper

Wine-tasting parties seem to have gone the way of chicken cordon bleu and green beans almondine: tired and expected. But wine-judging parties—that’s another story. It sounds similar, sure. But a wine-judging party has an added layer of fun. The premise: Each guest brings their favorite bottle of red and their favorite bottle of white. The bottles are wrapped, going incognito, upon arrival. Guests taste each wine and then vote on their new favorites. At the end of the evening, a red and a white winner is declared! Before you start pouring, there are a few things to keep in mind when preparing and hosting a fun and festive wine-judging party.

The Set-Up

Every food party needs a great invite and decor. Since this style of party is a fairly new concept, guests need to be made aware of the rules. Be clear in your invite; state the rules and what you want each guest to bring. Grab some cute invites that match the theme of your party, be it formal, casual, or funky. Once guests arrive, you’ll need some sort of wrapping to disguise the bottles. The fun part is the reveal later in the evening. “Look for unique bags to put the wines in,” said Andrea O’Shea, a local vintner. “There are some burlap ones I’ve seen that are nice.” If you are crafty, use a stencil to number the burlap. Once guests begin arriving, uncork the bottle and cover them.

The Food

I know what you’re thinking—can’t go wrong with a cheese platter. Sure, cheese is always at a wine party for a reason: it pairs well. But we recommend changing gears and livening up the menu to reflect the party atmosphere. Among O’Sheas suggestions are anything with mushrooms and homemade pizzas. If you opt for a pizza bar (which we wholeheartedly recommend), go for both white pizza and classic marinara, offering plenty of toppings for your guests to enjoy. Also, keep in mind that guests will be drinking wine throughout the evening, so finger foods, especially ones that can be eaten with just one hand, are a must. Baked wonton cups filled with chicken salad, shrimp or veggies make a great one-handed option.

The Voting

There are several ways to handle the voting. We recommend giving each guest a card with the numbers of all the wines so that they can record tasting notes. Once the tasting is finished, you can either set up a tally card in front of each bottle for guests to vote for their favorite white and red (the bottles with the most tallies win), or if you want to add a little panache, put a small dish by each bottle and give guests two buttons to choose their favorites. The red and white with the most buttons win!

The Wine

A wine-judging party provides an excellent opportunity for everyone to try some new wines, have fun, and get creative. So explore! Try something completely new or well out of your comfort zone. Also, keep in mind some local varieties to add to the mix, including Great Frogs Vineyard in Annapolis (try the Lollipop Red), St. Michael’s Winery in St. Michaels (the sweet blackberry merlot Gollywobbler Black is a fun option), and Bordeleau Winery in Eden (Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, and Savignon Blanc are among their palate-pleasing whites). For more Maryland wine options, visit