MENTIONED IN THIS POST:
For much of my life, New Year’s Eve celebrations revolved around dancing, fireworks, and flutes of Champagne. However, in the past few years, I’ve made wine a much bigger part of my holiday celebrations. It all started when I was invited to a friend’s house for a formal New Year’s Eve dinner party. I brought along a magnum of 2004 Ridge Monte Bello to share with everyone. As the night wore on, I noticed that several of the guests had pulled their chairs over to my side of the table hoping for a refill. They’d never had Ridge wine before and wanted to learn more about the producer. This gave me an idea: what if I hosted a New Year’s Eve wine tasting party?
Wine tasting parties have now become an annual holiday tradition for me. What I love about having a wine tasting on New Year’s Eve is that it gives me an excuse to pull some of my favorite legendary bottles out of storage to share with friends and family. It’s also a great way to try new wines and experiment with styles I normally don’t buy for myself. If you’ve always wanted to host one of these parties yourself or you just want a few suggestions of excellent celebratory wines to buy this holiday season, this detailed guide will get you started.
Choosing Bottles for a New Year’s Eve Wine Tasting Party
My colleague hosts a New Year’s Eve party every year that’s all about the Champagne. He and a close group of wine enthusiast friends spend months looking for the best New Year’s Eve-worthy Champagne to bring to the event. In the past, they’ve served everything from 1971 Moët & Chandon Dom Pérignon to 1992 Philipponnat Brut Clos Des Goisses–they never skimp on fine bubbly. One year, my colleague invited his cousin to the event for the first time. Even though he’d told his cousin to bring a nice bottle of Champagne, his cousin showed up with a bottle of Cook’s instead. Almost no one drank the wine he brought, and my colleague felt guilty about not being specific enough in his invitation.
That’s why, when you host a New Year’s Eve wine tasting party, it’s a good idea either to provide all of the wine yourself or set specific guidelines for your guests to follow when they pick out their own wines. Not only does this ensure that all of your guests get to drink wines of similar quality, but it also makes it easier for guests to choose their wine in advance. They won’t have to wonder what type of wine is appropriate to bring.
Below we’ll break down each of these options:
Option 1: Curate a Wine Tasting Journey
This is a foolproof way to host a New Year’s Eve wine tasting party. By picking out all of the wines yourself, you have full control over the quality of the wine you serve and you can select foods that pair perfectly with the bottles you chose. This is your opportunity to show off some of the incredible wines in your collection or to splurge on wines you’ve had your eye on for a while. You might serve a 2010 William Fèvre Chablis Les Clos with a cheese platter early in the night, then move on to a rich bottle of 2009 Château LaFleur, and finish the evening off with a sweet 2001 Château d’Yquem.
One downside to picking the wines out yourself is that it takes some of the surprise out of the experience.
If you do pick out all of the wines yourself, you’ll need enough wine for everyone, which means at least one standard-sized bottle of wine per guest. Each of your guests should also get the chance to try at least one glass from every bottle. This might mean buying two or three bottles of the same vintage if you plan on hosting a large number of guests. One downside to picking the wines out yourself is that it takes some of the surprise out of the experience. Part of the fun of a New Year’s Eve wine tasting party is not being sure what bottles everyone will bring. For this reason, you may opt for the next option instead.
Option 2: Set a Theme and Price Point for Your Guests to Follow
Hosting a tasting party on New Year’s Eve is easier when you ask your guests to bring their own wine. But don’t leave everything up to them. When you invite your guests, set a few guidelines for the wine they’ll bring. For example, having a price range for the wine can help you set an expectation for the overall quality of wine that you want your guests to bring. A minimum $100-$500 range per bottle is a great starting point for a tasting that feels like a special event; you can also set the budget at $30-$60 per bottle and still get to taste some fantastic wines in this price range.
You can also assign your guests to specific wine styles or regions. This ensures that not every guest brings Champagne to the event and makes the tasting experience more exciting. For example, you could ask your sister to bring a fruit-forward, full-bodied red, and she might choose anything from Old-World 2005 Château Larcis-Ducasse to New-World 2015 Joseph Phelps Insignia. The specific wine she brings will still be a surprise to you and the other guests, but you’ll know exactly when to serve it during the party and what to serve it with because you already know what style to expect.
Serve Your Wine in the Perfect Order
A few years ago, I hosted a blind tasting party and asked everyone to bring their own wine. Even though everyone brought excellent wines, serving them was a struggle because I hadn’t planned the serving order out ahead of time. All of the bottles were in plain paper bags and it was impossible to tell which were light-bodied whites and which were concentrated reds. It’s hard to taste the subtle flavors in a Sauvignon Blanc after you’ve taken a sip of Syrah.
If you want your guests to remember what each of the wines tasted like, give everyone a festive tasting note card to score each bottle or jot down their thoughts.
This is a common problem when you host a blind tasting. These parties are usually chaotic, and you don’t know what everyone is bringing until they’re at your front door. To keep your wines in the right order, either assign your guests to a specific style or ask them to write basic information about the wine on its paper bag. They don’t have to be specific–“light-bodied white” is plenty of information.
Serve your wines in this order throughout the night:
- Refreshing, light-bodied whites
- Aromatic, light-bodied reds
- Rich, complex whites
- Fruit-forward, full-bodied reds
- Earthy, full-bodied reds (or wines with age)
- Sparkling wine
- Dessert or fortified wine
Or, if you’re only serving one type of wine (like Champagne), order them from youngest to oldest.
If you want your guests to remember what each of the wines tasted like, give everyone a festive tasting note card to score each bottle or jot down their thoughts. You can also have your guests sign up for a mobile tasting note app so that they don’t have to keep track of a piece of paper all night. At the end of the party, you might even offer a prize to the person who brought the bottle scored highest by the other guests. Because this is still a New Year’s Eve party, don’t expect anyone to get too detailed with their wine tasting notes. Keep the tasting process lighthearted and casual.
The Best Food Pairings for a New Year’s Eve Wine Tasting Party
Your food selections for the party should be simple and versatile. Skip heavily-seasoned foods in favor of more subtle appetizers to keep the wine the center of attention. Cheese platters are great choices for blind tastings because almost every type of wine pairs well with cheese. Having a variety of options like rich triple-cream cheese and flavorful blue cheese will give you perfect pairing options for every type of wine your guests bring. Crackers, bread, shortbread cookies, popcorn, charcuterie, and potato chips also pair well with nearly every type of wine because they are fairly simple in flavor. You can also ask your guests to bring an appetizer that they think will pair perfectly with the bottle they’ve brought.
The Most Celebratory Wines for the Occasion
Whether you’re buying enough wine to serve dozens of guests or just a couple of bottles to enjoy among close friends, you’ll often find the best celebratory wines online. Trustworthy online marketplaces frequently stock rare or unusual wines that can be difficult to find in local wine shops. Offering unusual or hard-to-find wines makes the tasting experience more interesting. Nobody wants to go to a New Year’s Eve wine tasting party where everyone brought the exact same bottle of non-vintage Champagne. Online wine retailers can help you think outside of the box and pick out wines that are truly memorable.
Here are a few great bottles you might consider for your upcoming celebration:
Sweet & fortified wine:
Champagne is usually the go-to wine for most New Year’s Eve celebrations, but tasting a wide variety of great wines can make this holiday much more memorable. By serving top-quality wines of every kind, you can show your guests that any fine wine is worthy of celebration.
Whether you are starting your high-end wine collection or adding to an established portfolio, Vinfolio is your partner in buying, selling, and professional storage. Contact us today to get access to the world’s finest wine.