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cheers! how to throw a wine party at keg party prices 
by Jenn Hulbert
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As the bottles arrive, uncork them and arrange wines according to type. If you want to be really cute, let each guest fill out a note card with a brief blurb about the wine and why they chose it; attach notes to their corresponding bottles. Now, official wine tasting is an art involving a complicated ritual of sniffing, swirling, sipping, and spitting, but this is not that kind of pretentious party. Let your guests taste the various wines on their own time, and by all means, drink up. Though a bottle per guest sounds like a lot of wine, we found that many people brought food instead, and some co-dependent couples brought one bottle between them. Wines that were not finished were simply sent home with their biggest fan.

Thanks to IKEA, we were able to make sure that each of our guests had their own wine glass from which to explore. If you don't have an IKEA, scour the thrift stores for cheapo glassware. You can also try a discount party store; if they don't carry inexpensive wine glasses, they'll at least have plastic goblets. At fifty cents a pop, our glasses were affordable enough that we let guests take them home as party favors. The favor, of course, is the mark of a truly grown-up party -- the only souvenirs garnered from college parties are hangovers and hickies.

No adult party is complete without hors d'oeuvres, and no wine party is complete without cheese. It's not just tradition talking here; wine and cheese pair perfectly because the fat in the cheese creates a smooth palate for the wine. Clearly, Tostitos and con queso won't cut it for a wine tasting, but with the world of fine cheese nearly as intimidating as wine, how do you figure out what kind of cheese to get?

Different types of cheese complement different wines; for your wine tasting, get a cheese to go with each of the most common kinds of wine. A few basic cheeses will cover several wine bases. Strong cheddar pairs well with a cabernet or a sauvignon blanc, brie highlights the flavors of wines like merlot and pinot noir, gruyere and provolone cheeses compliment chardonnays, and muenster couples beautifully with zinfandels. At Trader Joe's a block of each was a reasonable expense. We labeled each cheese with the wine that it complemented so that our guests became as educated as they did tipsy.

Because cheese is so expensive, we chose to beef up the spread with crackers, french bread and olive oil, and wine-friendly fruit like grapes, pears, apples, and strawberries. The final accent? Chocolate! There's no rule that says that good party food has to be homemade. When there's wine for distraction, no one notices that the brownie bits came from Trader Joe's.

keep on ambling folks!


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