How to do a tasting... 22 attendees?

I’m coordinating a wine dinner for 22 of my travel buddies from Flyertalk that are into wine. This is our 3rd annual WineDo. I need your advice.

With so many people, how do you handle ‘the pour’ for each person? Does everyone get a small taste? How can that be meaningful? Let people pick and choose what they drink?

Can anyone whose organized a large event advise me how to handle this? I guess I could just split the group in 2 based on signup date, and this would solve my problem.
The negative about that is that some of the +1’s or +2’s are just along for the ride.

If we’re split into 2 tables rather than 1, should the bottles be split between the tables? And if so, how to decide what goes where? This group was never more than 13, so it was easy to handle. It somehow managed to self-liquidate (you should pardon the pun). [whistle.gif]

Here’s a list of the wine as of yesterday. Remember, we major in miles and points, so the list below may not be up to WB standards. neener

-dhammer53 +1(?) … 2003 Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards Éloge

  • KathyWdrf … Darioush Viognier
  • mjm … 2006 MacPhail Family Wines Pinot Noir (Anderson Valley) and 2005 Schramsberg Brut Rose
  • El_Chiflero
  • cordelli +1 … Miner Wild Yeast Vigoner
  • violist… East India Solera '94 ?
  • Luvtworce +1 Renwood 2006 Zinfandel Amador Ice
  • Bob W…2005 Nicholson Ranch Syrah (Sonoma, CA) and a 2002 Snoqualmie Reserve Syrah (Washington state)
  • Jackal… +1 2003 Dunham Cellars Syrah (Columbia Valley, WA)
  • EastBay1k… 2007 Dashe Dry Riesling - McFadden Farms, Potter Valley (Mendocino) CA and 2007 Frick C2
  • JerseyJoe +4
  • Calcifer … 1990 Poniatowski Vouvray Aigle Blanc
  • Monitor … Fidelitas Champoux 2004 from the Columbia Valley
  • lili

22 people is too much for one bottle each, so you need two.
It´s certainly better to split the table into two parts because the 2 bottles should not be mixed up … in case of a corky wine … or if they simply are different (storage etc.) - so you can compare eventually.

I would simply show in front of the whole group in advance how much approximletly can be poured into each ones glass - and then let the bottles or caraffes go round the table - each one serving his/herself - usually it works very well even with 16 persons from one bottle.

Another solution is that couples taste together from the same stems … (e.g. 7 couples + 8 singles = 15 glasses … THAT is possible with one bottle if only a small amount just for tasting is necessary … but not for comfortable drinking with the dinner …

A list of the available wines is always recommendable … not necessarily in the actual sequence - so a certain guessing can also take place …

Any more questions ?


I agree that 22 is way too many per bottle. But you have a few things to consider. First, a lot of the people who bring wives/husbands/girlfriends/boyfriends will be bringing someone who doesn’t care all that much about wine and who may not drink all that much. When I go somewhere with my wife, she’ll have a glass or two no matter how many wines there are, and she’s entirely uninterested in tasting some rare wine - would far rather have something she knows and likes. So you may not need 22 for every bottle.

Second, some people have preferences for whites/reds, and they may fall out that way.

Third, the wines are kind of random, so if people have stylistic preferences, they may group themselves that way.

I would want to taste the 2 viogniers if I were there.

Actually, it’s not hard to get 22 decent-sized tastes out of a bottle. (Think about it: when you have a bottle at home, do you only get 22 sips out of it? no, there’s plenty more.) Used to do this routinely when I ran a large tasting group in school - we’d buy 5 bottles of each wine for 100 people. Your problem is just logistics - you can’t count on everybody pouring their own taste at the right size. There will inevitably be a guy who fills his glass to the brim, completely oblivious to the apportioning issue. One option is to get auto-stop pourers that you stick in the bottle of the type bartenders use - they make ones that will automatically dispense 50ml when you pour and then stop. That will get you 15 pours out of each bottle, which is probably enough for your purposes as long as not everyone is interested in trying every single bottle. Wouldn’t be shocked if you can find them in the Skymall catalog :slight_smile:

you simply must have someone boring because, as Keith notes, there’ll be somebody bogarting the bottle and ruining it for those downstream . . .


Hi Dan. I agree with Keith. I just did a seminar for 30 and we had 2-3 bottles of each wine, with two exceptions. I poured everything, into plastic glasses. If you provide other glassware or if people bring their own, they can pour their plastic glass apportionment into their tasting glass. It’s really best if you keep control of the pour process.

There was almost no way to do that with the single bottles, so I did pass those around with many exhortations to think about leaving some for the last table to get wine.

In doing things this way, you need to have sequenced “flights”. After the initial pours, I walked around the table pouring for each person (again into the plastic glass) the pour(s) for the next flight. It worked relatively well and smoothly. If you have a trusted assistant to help you, that is always to the good.

As someone mentioned above – the measured pourers are the only way to go. (I bought some for my tasting group and they have proven invaluable)

(no affiliation with site above)

Well, if it should be a professional-like tasting 1 bottle for 22 guests is not ok … it´s not only to take one sip but to smell, taste, swirl, re-taste etc. …
16 glasses are ok (for younger wines), 18 is almost too much …

On the other hand I had quite positive experiences with the method of letting everybody pour himself … if there isn´t enough left for the last glass the shame would be on the ones with heavy fill … and when going around with the empty glass to collect a bit here and there those people often turn red and stumble excuses … next flight is always perfect !

Another way is to let go round a small glass with a marking together with the bottle - to measure the apropriate quantity … and everybody is only entitled to pour up to he marking … works perfectly, but I did it only one time … it simply wasn´t necessary …

It is NOT recommendable to send a waiter around and the table to pour (or do it yourself) … in standing position one often pours much too much … and it´s hard to blame the waiter afterwards …

Lots of opinions here, Dan.

For me, I would have 2 bottles of everything, and I would have someone pouring. This gives people the opportunity to pass on a wine they might not want. If I have more than 3 wines, I have 3 stems on the table as diners sit down, and announce what is in the glasses, left to right. Some people will drain all their glasses, others will want to hold on to them and try them through the dinner. Then you can pour the next flight into the emptied glasses, or put down additional glasses for the few geeks who can’t let go of the first flight. Obviously, it is essential to get the glass requirements settled with the restaurant well beforehand.

In my experience, a group will start to self-select at that point, with many people having favorites that they want re-poured. With 22 people, you will have someone busy pouring through the night, but will not have glasses or bottles spilled, or those few people with glasses filled to the brim. The problem with self pours, even with the measured pourers, is that it is very disruptive during a dinner to have to pass the bottle every time someone wants something new or more of a favorite.

Dan, thread drift, but I noticed you were taking an '03 Eloge. FWIW I drank an '02 a couple of weeks ago and it took a good four hours in the decanter to show its stuff. Over those four hours it went from nothing special to magnificent!

I have these same pourers and they work perfectly and are the answer to this post. My tasting group can reach into the 20s and this is where we go in favor of trusting the accuracy of pouring from the bottle. They do require tilting the bottle upside down and in the case where sediment may be an issue, it`s good to decant in advance. Also, it is important to clean these after each evenings usage and especially after pouring a flawed wine.

In my experience (ITB) there are two popular ways to hold a tasting for that amount of people.

  1. A small cocktail table with a person pouring wine to those who come and go from the table in a cocktail mingling environment. It allows for everyone to walk around, talk, chat, and listen to the Pourer say the same thing 22 times per wine.
  2. Have everyone sit down at two tables, or maybe 3 rectangle tables arranged like a horseshoe with everyone f=somewhat facing the open end like a small conference. If you choose this method, everyone is more focused on the Speaker discussing the wines and the information they are trying to convey. People are less conversational with each other, but they tend to get more out of the event if the wine is the main focus.

Either way, I would strongly recommend having a knowledgeable person pour the wines instead of any consumer pouring it. Customers/drinkers/consumers will Bogart the bottle and pretty soon, you’ll be opening 3, 4 or 5 bottles. At my shop we tend to choose option 1. It makes for a more casual event for tastings and not everyone shows up at the same time.
for wine dinners, of course everyone is sitting down and it’s restaurant style with a waiter and chef.

Hope this helps.

Dan, 12 is the uppermost I would ever do. I did it a few times, the ONLY time that it worked well is when I poured all of the wines…all 22 of them. Every pour. Left to the ‘send around’, it’s tricky (ask the 3 people who did not get the Scarecrow and Hillside Select at my dinner)after people have been hitting a few, but if you try to get 22 from 1 bottle, I suspect the hitting a few if moot…You will have the best behaved group ever…

Split the tables, because even 11 is tight.

yes, I meant pouring . . .

I think twelve people is the upper limit for a tasting where there is only bottle of each wine, and the ideal number is more in the 7-10 range. You could swing it with 22 people but the pours will have to be tiny. That is only 35ml per person, which is half the size of a good pour. Either divide up the wines on the different tables or get two of each wine would be my suggestion.

To police pour size without ruining someone’s evening, use beakers (thanks to David Sutherland – the beaker-master of Silicon Valley). Draw a big line on the beaker for the allocated pour size and pass it around with the bottle. It works. The bartender thingies don’t work with undecanted reds that have sediment, because the last third of the people have to drink soup.

I expect the serving/pouring advice above is quite good. My husband spends some time on Flyertalk, so it’s funny to see it mentioned here. He logged 180k EQMs last year and says you’ll know what that means (I haven’t a clue). Have a great party!

Megan, my people are everywhere. [wink.gif] Can you PM me his screen name. 180. Very nice.

I’ve read all the advice above (twice). It’s impossible for the attendees to bring 2 bottles of their wine. I’ll take a wild guess and say that none of those folks (with the exception of maybe a couple of people), has 2 of the same bottles.

The restaurant is going to use 3 tables for this event. The past 2 events, we had 2 tables. Everyone sat where ever they liked. Most people drank the wine at their table; and a couple walked to the other table to sample what they wanted to. This sort of self-liquidates some of the potential problems. I’ll monitor the first couple of pours to make sure all goes well. Remember, this isn’t a WB event, where everyone wants to taste the Scarecrow.

The restaurant is providing 3 glasses + 1 champagne glass.

I appreciate all the thoughts and opinions posted here. [cheers.gif]

Psst, I’ll be nursing the ACV 03 Eloge with the real wine geeks that are coming, and the few that pretend to be. [wink.gif]

If this is not to be the most serious wine tasting event ever then how about group bottles into 4-5 bottles and for each group show the names of the wines in that group. Wrap all bottles in foil to hide their identity and reward points for correct guesses. Some folks will only do 1 group and some them all. Give awards for the most correct and the highest overall percentage correct. Why I like this is folks can walk around and pour for themselves at their leisure. Allows you to have high end and low end wines and get a good laugh about getting them wrong.