Before you start, make sure you are in a well-lit room to ensure your guests will be able to effectively evaluate the wine’s clarity and color. There needs to be enough room to accommodate the blending equipment and for all participants to be seated comfortably. Tasting placements, pipettes, and beakers need to be set out for each guest along with seven glasses per placement. Cups for spitting should be nearby, as constant tasting can fatigue the palate, and drinking water and crackers should be easily accessible. Open the wine before the party to ensure it breathes adequately and pour before guests enter the room. Pour enough for guests to taste each varietal and use for their blended wines. One glass will be empty, which will serve as their blending glass.
Introduction (5 minutes)
Before starting the blending exercise, explain to the guests that wine blending is the art of mixing two or more varietals together to produce a consistent, high-quality finished wine. Discuss the many reasons for blending: to enhance the aroma, improve the color, add or minimize flavors or tastes. Let the guests know that this is their chance to be winemakers for the day and create their own unique blends. They will immerse themselves in the art of blending wine through hands-on experience, which will enable them to further understand the winemaker’s role, responsibilities, and skills. And, of course, emphasize that they will have a fun time while learning a new craft!
Analyze Each Varietal (20 minutes)
First, walk the guests through the analysis of each varietal as they appear on the placement from left to right. This should be done out loud as a group activity with the goal being to make sure they understand the unique characteristics of the varietals and how they will affect the blend. The idea is for them to understand each component almost as if it were a spice and what if will add to the wine recipe. Make sure the guests do not pour out their wine after they taste as they will need to use for the purpose of blending. The next step is to have the guests taste the Lyeth Meritage to identify the “spices” if you will. They will have the opportunity to understand what a real Meritage tastes like and serve as a guideline for what they are trying to achieve. Taste it together as a group, identifying and discussing the various characteristics and nuances of the wine. Encourage them to write notes on the color, aromas, flavor and texture so they can reference during the blending exercise.
Blending Exercise (20 minutes)
After the guests have taken good notes on each of the wines and truly understand what each varietal will bring to the blend, it is time to create their own blend. Demonstrate the use of the mouth pipette. (With the mouth at the end of the pipette, siphon wine into the pipette as if drinking form a straw, then quickly slide a finger over the top to keep the wine inside. Release the wine into the blending glass.) Have guests record the amount or percentages of each varietal they’ve added on the recipe card on their tasting placements. When finished blending, they should evaluate their wine for color, aromas, flavor, texture and overall assessment, in the same way they analyzed the Lyeth Meritage.
Label Design (Optional 15 minutes)
To add a playful, fun note, provide art materials so that the participants can create their own wine labels to “market” their wine.
Judging (10 minutes)
When the blending has ended, the judging will begin. Either appoint a panel of judges or be the judge yourself. The judge(s) will taste and evaluate each wine, choosing the best and explaining to guests the reasons behind the decision. If label designs were included in the activity, they can also be judged in a separate category.