No matter how much we all want to look on the bright side- or at least to that being the case in the near future, sometimes the lack of something to look forward to combined with winter weather end up lowering our spirits despite rosy intentions. One guaranteed way to start feeling festive is to work on planning something celebratory for your nearest and dearest- especially those you haven’t seen in a while. Get involved in the process, seek décor ideas online, work on your menu, and in no time, you’ll be smiling in anticipation. PS: This is especially true if you get into organization mode while also sampling what you hope to serve. When your little soiree is centered around bubbles, it’s fun from the first step.
Don’t Be Intimidated
Include a few friends on the guest list but don’t overload it. This is not the time for a big gathering, and to taste the good stuff, you will want to keep it intimate. If you are far from well-versed on all of the French nectar’s virtues, that’s not a problem either. A newly established service started by a professional that worked for the top Champagne houses in the world for two decades can guide the entire process. From what to buy and how to store, serve and sip, Unwined Us can take care of the details, being involved as little or as much as you would like. Perhaps you just want an expert on hand (either in person or virtually) to offer education on some of the sparkling you are sampling, or maybe you just want a directive to go by. The choice is yours.
I was lucky enough to previously toast with a group of fantastic women in my home with lots of help from the source, and it was fantastic. We learned, we laughed, and we left each other feeling a little lighter. I also gained some tips to swing this on my own if I wanted to do it again with others, as well as discovering bottles that I always want to have chilled no matter what the occasion. These are a few things to keep in mind if you’re looking to plan your own night of fun that’s just a bit more exciting than the typical wine tasting.
Top Tasting Tips
- Splurge A Little-I believe that if you’re going to host that, investing in up-market bottles is beyond worth it. It elevates the entire experience, and no matter what the palate level, everyone loves the higher-end vintages. You can, of course, choose less expensive bottles. Just plan on at least 3-6 to keep it interesting. (Bottles chosen for my tasting were wow-factor worthy: Veuve Clicquot Le Grande Dame 2008 ((both white and rosé)), 2006 Ruinart Rosé, 2000 Dom Perignon, Moet Vintage 2008 and Krug Grande Cuvee 166th)
- Guest List Lessons– Since keeping it small is essential, this isn’t a random list of people who just like each other. If your very best friend in the world is a die-hard beer drinker who never strays from her favorite brew…. she’s not invited. Ditto for your teetotaler sister or that ‘I only drink red’ co-worker. It’s also not a lot of fun for those in your life who are expecting or steer clear of spirits for health or diet reasons. Invite people who will genuinely appreciate the experience, even if they are not wine enthusiasts. It’s a chance to explore, share and enjoy conversations around learning and tasting something new, and savoring the process.
- Glassware Is Everything – You don’t taste Champagne in flutes. Instead, choose a more open stemmed crystal (white wine glasses are simple and a good size). I actually invested in a slew of glassware during my time working with fine-wine clients, but the easiest route is to call Please Be Seated and rent the amount you need. Return them in the delivery crates, unwashed, and save yourself tons of time!
- Keep Tables Minimal – With all of the $$ you’ve spent on the ‘special guests’, you don’t want to overpower the display (or the scent of the wine) with busy or powerful floral displays and décor. I let Hugh Howser set up my tables after a friend put together some simple (low!) white rose bowls for a nod to Parisian bistro chic. (Check out all of his party tips for any occasion here).
- Food For Thought – When it comes to food, it’s more relaxed to steer clear of fancy apps like caviar and serve things that are fun to eat and compliment what you are serving. Salty is always a good bet, but some of the best tasting events are unique/unexpected Champagne pairings (like Pizza, Fried Chicken, Barbeque). It’s the high/low mix that adds a fun twist and element of surprise. Cheeseboards are always a hit, too—no matter what else you are serving.
- The Takeaway – To send guests home with a little memento of the evening, seek out something appropriate to continue the celebration after the party. I chose mini bottles of Moet Rosé, but you could also select bubbly-inspired cocktail napkins, a bottle stopper or even a lovely linen wine towel. Choosing is part of the fun!