Chow Town

A wine tasting party for New Year’s Eve

Updated: 2014-01-02T00:27:12Z

By KATHY MOORE

You made it through Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas.

While delighted to party and see your friends, are you just a little fatigued at the thought of another party?

Maybe you used every bit of creativity and energy you had planning great holiday gatherings for family and friends.

Now, faced with New Year’s Eve, are you at a loss as to what to do? It is not your every-day regular evening — your party needs to be special, fun for all, and fill several hours.

What can you do — especially at this late date? Let me outline a party plan that is tried and true, is sure to be fun and is easy to give. A Wine Tasting and Gift Exchange is a hit with my friends and it would be the perfect New Year’s Eve party.

Here is the plan:

Ask each of your friends to bring two identical bottles of wine — one wrapped as a gift and one ready to serve. I set a price limit, but otherwise, I asked people to bring whatever kind they like.

We had reds and whites, dry and sweet — and I loved the variety. You could specify all sparkling, or all from local wineries, or set whatever parameters sound fun for you.

Begin the party with appetizers and a wine tasting. For the wine tasting, arrange similar wines together and put them in an order so the tasting flows smoothly from driest to sweetest.

Code the bottles with a number or letter for easy reference. Provide each guest with paper or wine scoring sheets and pencils so each guest can note which ones they enjoy.

Do a quick Google search on “Wine Tasting Score Cards” and you will find many samples, or keep it easy and simply list the bottle codes and give space to note color, aroma, taste and overall score.

You can make the tasting as “official” or as “casual” as you want, but encourage small tastes of several wines. Discovering wines you never thought you liked is part of the fun!

Balance the wine tasting with appetizers — especially those that complement the wine.

A cheese board is easy — especially with the guidance of specialist from The Better Cheddar, Whole Foods and other fine stores.

Sliced fruit and crackers are always good, as are classics such as an artichoke dip or meatballs. You can have guests bring appetizers or purchase a variety of ones that are easy to heat and serve.

I avoided especially spicy foods so the wine would balance the flavors, but let your taste buds guide your selection.

Now, have a gift exchange — loosely based on the typical “White Elephant” gift exchange. Give each guest a number, then in order, each guest gets to select one wrapped bottle from the stack of gifts and unwrap it or they could steal from someone else.

But do not stop there. Go through the numbers again and encourage people to steal or trade — always with an eye on the goal of ending with a favorite bottle of wine.

I added some fun, by randomly slipping a direction, like “sell your wine” telling people why the bottle you are holding would be the ideal wine for them.

For another, I suggested they instruct all people holding a red wine to stand and exchange. Make the gift exchange fun but strive to keep exchanging until people are pleased with the wine they will take home.

Following the gift exchange, play wine games. We played “Wine Wars,” a great game by Joyce Lock and published by Chronicle Books. We laughed the night away as we discovered we knew less about wine than we thought.

There are several wine trivia games on Amazon and at stores, such as Barnes and Noble, so you can select one that looks fun to you. If you are ambitious, you can find wine trivia questions on line.

To add to the fun, divide your group into randomly chosen, but equally sized, teams. To do this, I listed grape varieties on small slips of paper and each person drew one out, discovering on which team they belonged.

Suddenly the Pinot Noir team challenged to Merlots and the fun escalated. Have you ever argued over how many corks Portugal’s famous cork oak tree produces in a typical harvest or what wine-related song was written by duo Lerner and Loewe for the 1958 movie, Gigi? (Questions from Wine Wars, by Joyce Lock, Chronicle Books, 2009—and the answers are 100,000 corks and “The Night They Invented Champagne.”)

Suddenly it will be time to toast the New Year! I bet you, and your guests, will talk about the fun and the wine they discovered for days to come.

Happy New Year!

Kathy Moore is one of two cookbook authors and food consultants that make up The Electrified Cooks. Her most recent cookbook is Triple Slow Cooker Entertaining. She develops the recipes for the “Eating for Life” column for The Kansas City Star and is a member of Les Dames d'Escoffier. She blogs at pluggedintocooking.com

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