It has been almost two years since some friends and I started the tradition of Wine Nights. Wine Nights are informal and lovely gatherings where each person brings a bottle of wine that fits into the night’s theme, some information about the wine, and a dish that complements the wine. We sit around a table for four to six hours, tasting, smelling, comparing, not taking notes, laughing, eating, drinking, pouring, spilling, telling stories, being silly, making fun of boys, and occasionally dancing to Usher.
There have been 13 gatherings during the past two years, and there are about 12 girls at each one. You may or may not already know that 13 x 12 is 156, which means that we have tasted 156 wines for the price of 13 wines. Many of those wines I have remembered fondly and purchased afterwards for myself.
Because of the various Wine Night themes, almost all of the wines are bottles that we would not normally choose on our own. The changing assignments allow us to branch out to different aisles of the wine shop that we usually ignore. When we have an assignment, it makes it much easier to walk over to a new shelf, select an unfamiliar bottle, and try to learn more about the wine on the internet.
These are the themes of our past 12 Wine Nights. There are obviously hundreds more regions and grapes that we have not yet delved into, but we’re trying our best! We could always try harder, but then we would be forever tipsy. Forever tipsy, that has a nice ring to it. I think it would make a great bumper sticker.
Wine Night #1: Assigned wines. Every girl is assigned a different grape.
Wine Night #2: Fickle Grapes: Viogner and Pinot Noir
Wine Night #3: Italian Whites
Wine Night #4: Western Australia
Wine Night #5: Willamette Valley, Oregon
Wine Night #6: Germany
Wine Night #7: South America
Wine Night #8: Any wine with the color purple in the label (bring a purple food as well)
Wine Night #9: Sake
Wine Night #10: Rosés
Wine Night #11: Wine Merchant’s Choice. Go to your local wine shop. Ask the person working there what is his/her absolute favorite wine that they sell (in your price range).
Wine Night #12: Bubbly! (Champagne or Sparkling Wine)
Wine Night #13: Storytime. Bring a wine that has a personal story behind it.
When the theme is broad and encompasses different types of wines, we learn to identify characteristics of different grapes from different regions. When we narrow the theme to specific grapes or regions, we can start to discern more subtle differences between winemakers’ techniques, soils, climates, and other factors, most of which we are blissfully unaware.
Some possible ideas for future Wine Nights:
Same wine, different year: Two people pair up. Bring the same wine, but from two different years. Everyone gets two glasses. Compare the differences between the two vintages.
Cheapo Wine Night: Purchase the most inexpensive bottle that your local wine shop still recommends with a clean conscience.
Food before Booze: First, decide which food to make. Research which type of wine will be best complemented by the flavors of the food. Have a few sips of wine before tasting the matching dish, so that you can taste the difference in the flavors that the food brings out in the wine.
Moneybags: Four people go in together to buy a $100 bottle of wine, each person paying $25. The advantages of this: there will only be three wine bottles, meaning we’ll be less tipsy, meaning we’ll taste each one more seriously, which is not a bad idea if we are tasting such fine wines. After the three bottles, if we are still thirsty, we can merrily deplete the hostess’ current wine collection. (Note: This would also be a good night to invite boys to Wine Night, because more people = more money = more $100 wine for everybody.)
(these 2 photos are by Sue)
Any suggestions for more themes? Our knowledge of Old World wines is severely inadequate, so if there are any regions of Europe that you find especially delicious, let me know!
We also especially appreciate whimsical themes, even if they are not as conducive to the development of sophisticated taste buds as regional themes are. Oh well. I heard we’re too young to have sophisticated wine taste buds anyway. I don't know where I heard that, don't know if it's true, but I do know that Wine Nights are joyful, shining moments in our lives, glimmering brightly throughout our workweeks and giving us a reason to work to get money to buy wine to bring to Wine Night.
(top photo in this group is by Sue)