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Hosting a Wine Tasting at Your Bar or Restaurant

Hosting a Wine Tasting at Your Bar or Restaurant

When you run a bar or restaurant that serves wine, you have the unique opportunity to host wine tasting events to bring in new guests and familiar faces alike. Wine tastings offer the chance to showcase new labels, educate guests about a certain wine region or simply offer them the chance to come to your restaurant to enjoy a glass or two of wine. When you offer intriguing events like this, you build a rapport with guests and provide memorable experiences that will surely bring in repeat business.

In this article you will learn:

  • The purpose and significance of wine tasting events
  • Basic steps for preparation and planning an event
  • Guidelines for guests when tasting wine

 

The Purpose of a Wine Tasting

Patterned dinner plate and matching napkin
Tasting wine is a hobby among wine enthusiasts and a serious undertaking for sommeliers, chefs and restaurant managers. Anyone can taste wine, and restaurants and bars often hold wine tastings to give guests the opportunity to enjoy a night out and learn about different wines without spending an extraordinary amount of their hard-earned dollar.

Wine tasting events typically provide samples of wines. The host uses a small wine glass or sampler glass to serve approximately two ounces, or about a third of a glass—enough to get a taste but not a full helping. The purpose is to offer the guest the chance to try something new while under the instruction of an experienced wine server or sommelier. Often a special menu of cheeses, fruits or small desserts is also served.

The event is meant to draw in regular and new guests alike, from the most educated wine drinker to the most inexperienced. Events like this draw attention and interest, creating a prime opportunity to inform new guests about your concept and your product. Establishing new customers and new relationships can lead to further sales down the road.

Planning the Wine Tasting Event
When planning a wine tasting, take into account the size of your bar or restaurant, as well as the space you have available for an event. Be sure to make an appropriate wine selection, schedule a time and promote the event so it will turn out to be a success.

  • Work with your sommelier. If you have a sommelier, let him or her take center stage. Your sommelier is a trained expert in everything to do with wine, and he or she can likely offer some fine suggestions for an event. If your restaurant does not have a sommelier, speak with your bar manager, chef of even your wine distributor for more ideas.

  • Decide which wine to serve. Your sommelier, chef or wine reps will usually be a great help in determining which wines to serve. However, if you have a speficic theme or grouping in mind, this can can help structure the tasting. Consider the following ideas:

    • Focus on one region. You can choose a single wine region as your theme, such as French wines or Chilean wines. You can even get more specific, such as offering wines from a single vintner.

    • Offer wines of a single varietal. Wine tastings are a great way to learn the breadth of possibility within one type of wine grape. For instance, you may try hosting a Chardonnay tasting to feature the many dimensions of different Chardonnays from different parts of the world.

    • Feature a wide variety. At your first wine tasting event it may help to offer a variety of wines so guests can try many options and branch out to something new. You might decide to offer five wines, beginning with whites and moving to reds, and ending with a dessert wine such as a port or ice wine, detailing all the differences as you go. A grouping like this is known as a flight of wine.

  • Select food to serve with the wine. Make the wine tasting event even more appealing to potential customers by offering a selection of small plates to go with each wine. You may offer a bite or two of pate, a selection of cheeses, dried or fresh fruit or even chocolates to accompany your wines. » Learn More About Wine Pairing

  • Promote the event. Letting people know about your wine tasting is essential to its success. Once you have planned a date, send emails, post on Twitter or Facebook, post promotional flyers around town or speak directly to customers in your restaurant to gain increased public awareness. »Learn More About Event Marketing

Basic Instructions to Guide Your Guests
When you host a wine tasting event, you can probably expect a range of different guests, from experienced wine drinkers to total beginners. Part of the intrigue about wine tasting events is the opportunity to experience wine while guided by a professional. As the event planner, it is a good idea to bring your chef, sommelier, head server or other knowledgeable member of your staff forward to lead the tasting and offer basic instructions to guests. The following basic suggestions provide a good guideline.

    A bartender pours a glass of wine for a customer
    A bartender expertly pours a glass of wine for a guest
  • Holding the glass. Once the guests have their sample of wine in their glasses, instruct them on the proper way to hold the glass. A glass of white wine is traditionally held by the stem, whereas a glass of red wine can be held by the bowl.

  • Swirling the wine. Instruct the guests to gently move their glasses to swirl the wine around to release the flavor and aromas. Be careful to avoid spills.

  • Smelling the wine. Tilting the glass toward your nose, show guests how to inhale the subtle aromas of the wine. Glassware is often shaped so that the flavors of the wine gather just around the mouth of the wine glass. Invite guests to focus their senses on what they smell. This is often called the “nose” of the wine, or the “bouquet.”

  • Tasting the wine. Although professional wine tasters and sommeliers sometimes spit the wine out between tastings, your guests are present to enjoy every sip! Before they swallow it down, guide them in drinking it, tasting it on all parts of the tongue, even swishing it around the mouth for a better impression of the flavors.

  • Discussing the wine. During a tasting, which is often an intimate event set in a different room or in a special area of the restaurant, it is not uncommon to initiate a discussion about the wines tasted. People often want to chat about what they taste or smell, or how the final taste affects their initial impressions. Encourage discussion by asking questions, prompting a thought to consider, or describing your own tastes to get the ball rolling.

No matter what type of formal training you have, when it comes to wine, be sure to avoid condescension of any kind. Everyone has their own tastes. There is not necessarily a right or a wrong way about it. You are there to offer guidance and suggestions, and to encourage discovery; not to squelch the importance and legitimacy of someone’s personal palate.

Wine tastings are a great event for restaurants and bars that offer a selection of wines, especially if the wine menu periodically changes. Charge an amount that fits the selection of wines you will offer; a more modest price for less expensive choices, a higher price for finer wines. Wine tasting events help initiate relationships with new customers, and regular guests feel excited to visit a favorite restaurant even if no meal is included. Wine tastings are educational, enjoyable and potentially very profitable, providing that guests enjoy the experience and return for a glass or a bottle another night.