How to Host a Restaurant Wine Tasting Dinner

Marco Maru

Wine is one alcoholic beverage that never goes out of style.  A wine tasting dinner is a popular promotional event to try at your restaurant.  Restaurant wine tastings offers an opportunity to encourage extra business, especially during traditionally slow seasons (think Cabin Fever Reliever or something similar).  A restaurant wine tasting is similar to a home wine tasting, in that guests will be sharing and conversing about several different wines.

However a restaurant wine tasting goes one step further, by inviting a sommelier (wine expert) to teach guests about the evening’s wines.

Select a Wine Menu

There are countless types of wine, from classic French or Californian wines to locally made wines to more exotic, rare wines. Work with your wine sales person or a sommelier to help you choose a robust wine menu.  A sommelier is a person with expertise in wine- how it is made, how to properly taste it, what dishes it goes best with. Your wine salesperson can either put you in touch with a sommelier or do the job themselves. Many wine distributors will help you in every phase of planning a wine tasting, since you are buying wine from them directly. Six wines is an ample selection for a restaurant wine tasting. Read more about the basics of wine tasting from wine expert, Stacy Slinkard.

Choose Complimentary Foods

Once you have decided on a selection of wines that complement one another, select menu items that will also complement each wine.

  Think beyond the old rules of white wine with chicken and fish, red wine with beef and pork. Again, working with your sommelier to plan a tasting menu will help you plan the perfect pairing of food and wine

Invite the Guests

Once you have the details of the wine tasting (date, time, wine list, dinner menu, price) it’s time to get the word out.

Take to your social media accounts to promote your restaurant wine tasting. Emphasize that space is limited, to encourage early reservations. You can sell tickets or take reservations, or both. It is important to have a definite number of guarantees, so you know how much wine to order and how much food to prepare. Order about 10% more food and wine than you need for any last minute reservations.

Educate Your Staff

If this is your first restaurant wine tasting, it’s important to educate your staff about the protocol of the evening. Review the routine for the night, step by step with both servers and kitchen staff. Give everyone a copy of the wine list and menu, so they know in what order to serve wines and dishes. Ask the staff to read about the wines that are being served, so they can answer simple questions for guests, including where the wine was produced, the types of grapes that were used, etc…

Stock up on Wine Glasses

Nothing will ruin a restaurant wine tasting faster than lack of wine goblets. Make sure you have enough wine glasses for the evening. Each person will have one glass, per wine served. So, if you are serving six wine, that is six glasses per guest. If you have 50 guests, you will need 300 wine glasses for the evening.

You may need to buy an extra case or two of glasses, but they are cheap and you can use them in your next restaurant wine tasting.

Be a Visible Host

Finally, it’s important that you are a gracious and charming host.  If you don’t work the front of the house, make sure your host or manager is available throughout the whole wine tasting.  While your guests are enjoying the wine and dinner you should be circulating through the dining room, taking time to stop and chat with each table. Ask for feedback and suggestions for the next wine tasting. Make sure your customers know how much you appreciate their business and look forward to their return.