I belong to an informal wine tasting group that meets around every six weeks. It's a lot of fun as well as educational, and offers the chance to taste wines that one might not ordinarily come across. At the end of each meeting, we decide who will host the following one, and last time -- you guessed it -- my number came up.
So, what to taste? Wines from anywhere in the world, old or young, red, white, or sparkling... all fair game. In the end I decided on a wine that I am not at all familiar with: Chenin blanc from France's Loire Valley.
My experience with Chenin blanc from this area is sadly limited to tasting on only a handful of occasions, so I figured I needed some help with my selections. Off I went to K&L Wine Merchants, where I explained the dire nature of my predicament and asked the capable staff for their help. Within minutes I was guided through a selection of wines covering the range of styles produced in this region (dry, off-dry, and sweet), and offered suggestions on which might give an interesting comparison if poured together.
Six bottles in tow, I trundled home. I've still got some background research to do on the producers and the bottles themselves, as my tasting partners are always hungry for every last detail which can be unearthed regarding the wines we taste, but with the wine-buying over, I'm practically home free.
If the idea of organizing a wine tasting seems too complicated, remember that they can be as formal or informal as you'd like. They can range from opening a few bottles at the same time for some friends to try together before you all go out or have dinner to sit-down, note-taking affairs with the bottles wrapped in paper bags to hide their identity until after they've been tasted and discussed. Make it as easy or as complex as you like. And the wine? If you don't have any ideas as to what you should try, or are looking for something you've never had before, or just don't want to make the decision yourself, let the folks in the wine shop help you. They certainly helped me!