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Host a White Wine Tasting Party

Glory in a glass; that's my definition of white wine. Now just keep your corks on all you red wine holdouts.

There are amazing white wines available from sea to shining sea and the 5 listed for this white wine tasting promise for a spectacular evening of sips and chatter about grapes. And for those who have never hosted a tasting before, this article has got you covered to help you throw a simply sophisticated party.

Let's face it, most of us are technically challenged with regard to the official checklist of wine tasting, which includes tannins, legs, and so forth. But, we are all masters of our palates and a night of tasting can romance the most casual wine drinker into becoming passionate oenophile.

What Type of White Wine Tasting to Host?

If you've ever researched wine tasting, chances are you've come across two main types of tastings: Horizontal and Vertical. Everything else is lumped into the category of General Tastings, which is how most people conduct their wine tasting party. Here's a break down on what tasting means what:

Horizontal Tasting

The classic Horizontal Tasting includes wines from the same vintage or year that the grape was harvested. However, many also stipulate that the tasting includes the same varietal or grape, for example all Chardonnay.

The goal with this type of tasting is to determine which wine producer excelled that year and to determine your personal preferences with regard to their wine making talents.

Vertical Tasting

A Vertical Tasting is what you've probably experienced if you have ever gone wine tasting at an actually winery. This type involves tasting different varietals of wine from different years but all made from the same producer.

The goal with this tasting is to determine the skill of the winemaker with specific varietals and to experience nuances from different vintages with respect to the varietals.

General Tasting

A General Tasting has no rules, except to discover what the tasters like about each bottle of wine. In following the lead of this article, the guidelines simply suggest tasting white wines within a certain budget, and in the world of wine, you get what you pay for.

White Wine Tasting Party Set-Up

Invest in a nice set of white wine glasses for this tasting. You don't have to offer a new glass specific to the varietal for each pour. (The varied wine glass bowls and rim widths can make your head spin when shopping for high-end glasses.)

My personal favorite is Riedel's Chablis glass, around $20 each. I find it to be a nice reasonable size for tasting white wine, plus I really like the lightweight of the vessel and the feel of its expertly crafted sheer rim as it rests on my lips; perfectly perched for a sip.

Choose 4 - 6 wines for this tasting, such as the ones suggested below.

Decide the order in which the wine will be tasted, most usually start with a light-bodied or dry wine and progress to fuller bodied, sweeter wines.

Line up the bottles in their tasting order, right to left or vice versa, along the backside of the table. By backside, I mean where the host or wine pourer would stand.

Place a wine glass for each guest along the front side on the table.

Place a pitcher of purified water and a discard bucket, such as an ice bucket, on the table for guests to sip or use the water to rinse their glasses before trying a new wine.

A basket of water crackers can be placed on the table as well. Crackers can serve as a palate cleanser or nibbler.

Create nice postcards with winemaker notes as well as descriptions from wine connoisseurs for each bottle. Some guests like to have an idea of what they are tasting before they sip while others like to discover the wine for themselves and then compare their findings to the pros.

Consider a notepad and pen for each guest to take their own notes.

Include essentials such as beverage napkins and a wine opener.

5 White Wine Suggestions

The wine is listed in a suggested tasting order and you'll find winemaker notes on each of these producer's website or by searching them online.

These wines range in price from around $25 to $50 a bottle.

2007 Lucien Crochet Sancerre, Loire Valley, France (around $28)

Many Americans know "Sancerre" as Sauvignon Blanc, but the French are arguably the masters of this varietal and the legendary Crochet estate is one of the very best producers. Wet stones, vibrant citrus, pollen-perfumed florals, and a lovely mouth-feel grace each glass of this pale yellow wine. Tastings that begin with Crochet's Sancerre are off to beautiful start.

2007 Villa Sparina Gavi di Gavi, Piedmont, Italy (around $21)

Have we all had enough of Pinot Grigio yet? Switch gears and move up to "Gavi" made from Cortese grapes. This delightful Italian wine is creamy, a bit oaky, and fruity with notes of apples, pears, and a medium golden color. The Cortese di Gavi is centuries old and perhaps this charming passage from 1798 by Count Nuvolone, the deputy director of the Agrarian Society of Turin, will prompt you to try it, "The Cortese variety has rather elongated clusters and somewhat large grapes. When they are ripe, they become yellow and are good to eat. They make good wine and in substantial quantity. And it keeps well.''

2007 Trefethen Vineyards, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California (around $25)

I really struggled with choosing the ideal Chardonnay producer for this list. Rombauer, Cakebread, and Sonoma-Cutrer are all go-to Chardonnays that I consider for every occasion. However, a recent tasting of Trefethen had that perfect palate Chardonnay trifecta (for me) of buttery, oaky, and a lingering finish. It's really as simple and pure as that.

2007 Dr. Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany (around $25)

This award-winning producer offers a classic Riesling for a great price. The "Kabinett" style of this varietal is very light and delicate vinifed from ripe grapes picked early in the harvest. You'll enjoy honeyed stone fruits with a touch of mineral in each glass along with a nice, balanced acidity.

2007 Chateau La Tour Blanche Sauternes, Bordeaux, France (around $50)

End your tasting with a classic dessert wine! This supple, full-bodied, golden wine has baked-good notes of cinnamon, citrus, and a lovely sweetness with tones of fruit like apricots and pears to tantalize the palate .

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Meet our Writer
Jennifer Geddes
Celebrations Writer

Jennifer Kelly Geddes has hosted Christmas cookie swaps, New Year's open houses, Thanksgiving for 22, and all manner of dinner parties in her Manhattan and Ghent, NY homes.

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