Horizontal Wine Tasting

I love potlucks, don’t you? In the case of a potluck horizontal wine tasting, everyone brings a bottle of the selected wine, a food item that pairs with that wine, enough wine glasses for the number of guests, and some notes they’ve taken about their wine.

Because it is a potluck party, everyone brings wine, great food, no one has to do too much work, and the dirty dishes go home with the guests.

In addition to the above, you as the host or hostess provide the crackers and ice water (for cleansing the palate between wines), the “spit cups”, the note-taking materials, and the festive setting!

What is a Horizontal Wine Tasting?

A horizontal wine tasting is conducted by focusing on a wine from a single year, but from different producers.

This allows you and your friends to explore the differences in a wine from different regions or countries, grown under different conditions.

A Pinot Noir is not a Pinot Noir is not a Pinot Noir … but why? And what are the differences?


A group of friends
A wine you’d like to explore
6 wine glasses per person
Paired food items
Plain crackers
Pitchers of ice water
“Spit cups”
Paper & pencils
Festive table settings and utensils

Ten Steps for Horizontal Wine Tasting Party

  1. With your friends, select a wine you’d like to learn more about, perhaps a Chardonnay, and select a year, perhaps 2008. You may also want to select a price range that’s comfortable for everyone.
  2. Do some advance research – what are the different 2008 Chardonnays carried in your local supermarkets and wine stores? Provide the list to your friends and work out a way to ensure you get wines from at least six different wineries.
  3. Ask everyone to do a little research on “their” wine, to include some research on foods that pair well with that wine.

    Homemade wine making friends?

    If one or more of them makes a wine of a certain
    type and vintage, by all means add it to the tasting! In
    fact, if you have wine making friends, select a wine
    and year they can offer, and then build out from there.
  4. Have everyone bring their bottle of wine, a paired appetizer, salad, main dish or dessert, and enough wine glasses for each guest. If you’re concerned about getting all salads or all desserts, work out a way to ensure a more even spread.
  5. On the day of the potluck, set up a side table or two for the wines and the food. Set up the table, get the pitchers of ice water ready, and wait for your guests to arrive!
  6. After your guests arrive, line the bottles up on a table, with numbered cards in front of them.
  7. In front of each person, arrange six glasses in a semi-circle from left to right. Pour a taste of wine (approx. 1-2 ounces) into each glass, with wine #1 in the left-most glass followed in order by wines #2 thru #6. Provide paper and pencils, and “spit cups” (very important if you want people to be able to distinguish wine #6 from wine #1!)
  8. Taste wine #1 – “see, swirl, smell, sip (but then spit)”. Allow everyone to discuss what they smell, what they taste, and what they think. Then ask the guest who brought the wine to tell a little more about it. Where is the vineyard? What flavors are associated with the wine (often the label will describe “hints of pear and oak” or other descriptors. Have people take another sip. Do they taste those flavors?
  9. Provide crackers and ice water to cleanse the palate, and then move on to wine #2 and repeat. Discuss differences with earlier wines. Have fun with it – and keep going until all six wines have been tasted.
  10. When the exploring is done, turn on some background music, invite your guests to get a glass of their new favorite wine, and dig into the array of delicious (and “wine-appropriate”) potluck items. Enjoy!

Get your Wine Tasting Evaluation Chart here.
Let's go plan a Wine and Cheese Brunch!
How about a Vertical Wine Tasting Dinner Party?
Or Mix it up with a Homemade Wine vs. World Wines

Return from Horizontal Wine Tasting to Wine Tasting Parties.
Return to Homemade Wine Making Guide Home Page.

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