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(Chris Clinton/Getty Images)
(Chris Clinton/Getty Images)

Can you suggest ideas for a wine-tasting party? Add to ...

Over the past 10 years or so we have had a number of wine-tasting parties, usually with a theme. One easy theme was "a world tour" - three whites and three reds from around the world. Other times we have focused on Ontario or wine from a particular region, like Tuscany. Once we had a case of Beaujolais from various wineries.

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In two weeks we are planning another evening and are looking for a way to choose the wine. Can you suggest something, please?

Wendy

I can think of three fun approaches. The first is known in wine circles as a "vertical" tasting in which you compare several vintages of the same wine. The second involves comparing different regional expressions of a single grape. The third is wines with cheese.

In a vertical tasting, you focus on a single wine - say, Frescobaldi Nipozzano Riserva, a popular Chianti from Tuscany. The idea is to taste through several vintages, or harvest years, of that wine to get a sense of how weather conditions in each year affect the grapes and, ultimately, the wine. (The harvest year is marked on the label, of course.) Hotter years produce fruitier, more full-bodied wines, while overcast years yield lighter wines high in acidity. The problem with this theme is that it can be difficult to source several vintages of the same wine unless you have been buying and storing successive vintages for years.

A more convenient theme is to compare one grape - say, riesling, pinot noir or cabernet - across various regions. Rieslings from Germany, for example, tend to be sweet, yet they're often balanced with mouth-cleansing acidity as well as a suggestion of minerals (which you may interpret as a tingle or the flavour you may have tasted if you licked a rock as a child). Rieslings from Alsace, a sunny region of northeastern France, tend to be fuller-bodied and opulent, yet essentially dry. Rieslings from Australia will almost invariably be bone-dry and racy with lime-like acidity. Good rieslings from Ontario or British Columbia will usually fall somewhere between the German and Australian styles. These differences are typically due to weather and soil conditions, what the French call "terroir." There are many other globally popular grapes to choose from. I'd also suggest syrah, sauvignon blanc or chardonnay.

Another good theme is wines with cheese. You and your friends may be surprised that certain white wines, notably sauvignon blanc and gewurztraminer, generally taste better with a mouthful of cheese than reds.

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