Sadly, the long days of summer and barbecue season are waning. But the colorful days of autumn are almost here: People are returning from summer holidays, football season is upon us, and the opportunity for tailgating and finding excuses to have fun with friends will soon be in full swing.
Wine is, perhaps, the most social of beverages. Wine-themed parties are great fun. But what are some of the options?
The annual and ever-popular MoCool event held near the village of Dexter has taken themes to a new level, and they can easily be implemented at home, business events, tailgating, or wherever. MoCool is an acronym for Motor City Cooperative Off-Line, an event originally founded for the purpose of allowing face-to-face meeting of wine aficionados who previously had only met in online wine forums.
Through the years, one creative theme after another has evolved: For 2010, it was “The Big O.” Each participant brought wine ending in the sound “O,” such as Pinot Grigio (double points), Barolo, Barbaresco, Merlot, Bordeaux, etc.
Other themes through the years: “Anything But California”; “Below the Belt” (all wines must originate in the Southern Hemisphere); “Tour de France” (any wine from France); “Hail That Cab!” (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc); Que Syrah, Shiraz (remember Syrah and Shiraz are the same grape); “Pinot Envy” (Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc); “California Dreamin’” (wines only from California); “PIGS Will Fly” (Portugal, Italy, Germany, Spain); “The Hunt for the Rhone Rangers” (wines of the Rhone region of France, and west coast wines from winemakers promoting the same grape varieties, such as Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Marsanne, Rousanne, Carignan and Viognier); and “Mediterranean Madness” (wines from the countries rimming the Mediterranean).
Let your creativity be your guide.
A fun theme is to bring wines in bags. Number the bags and have participants savor them on a “blind” basis for a while. Consider entry fees for each wine, and submit ballots for best wine, cheapest wine and most expensive wine, with appropriate prizes for winners. Or choose a single grape variety, such as Pinot Noir, for guests to bring in bags, and ask the same questions. Chances are you will be pleasantly surprised to learn that expensive doesn’t always correlate with “good” and cheap doesn’t always correlate with “dreck.” If the label and price tag are obscured, only your senses will be your guide.
Another interesting and educational theme is to serve small portions of a bagged wine sequentially to attendees, with guests attempting to guess the variety, age, country of origin, appellation and winery. The person who brought the wine — or the host — answers yes and no questions from the guests. Is it from California? Is the vintage before 2000? Is it Zinfandel?
Finally the choices are narrowed down. It’s a fun way to learn about the nuances of age, place, and grape variety, and stay engaged in lively conversation throughout the meal or event.
Of course, sporting events always create great reasons for socializing with wine themes: Super Bowl, Final Four, World Series, bowl games, tailgating. Just remember to be a responsible host and make sure everybody has a safe means of getting home.
In vino veritas.
(Michael Brenton is president of the Greater Lansing Vintners Club. His Uncorked column usually appears in the first issue of the month.)