How to Plan a Restaurant Wine Tasting

Ask a sommelier for advice on choosing wine for your restaurant wine tasting. Gracey Stinson

A restaurant wine tasting is a fun and interesting promotion that can bring in extra business during slow seasons. Even if you aren’t a wine aficionado, you can still host a wine tasting at your restaurant. 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.

Difficulty: Average

Time Required: Six to Eight Weeks

Here's How:

  1. Decide on a Theme

    Begin by deciding on a theme for your restaurant wine tasting. Choosing a theme will make selecting the wine and planning the menu that much easier. For example, if you chose a French wine theme, you could pair wines from Southern France with authentic Provencal dishes or Northern Italian wines paired with a hearty Tuscan meal.

  2. Book a Sommelier

    Speak with your wine salesperson about hiring a sommelier. 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.

  3. Choose the Wines

    With the help of your sommelier, select the wines for the tasting. Six wines is a ample selection for a restaurant wine tasting. Three reds and three whites is a good selection that will compliment one another. Read more about the basics of wine tasting from wine expert Stacy Slinkard.

  1. Write the Menu

    Once you have selected wines for your restaurant wine tasting dinner, you need to choose dishes that compliment each wine. It used to be white wine with chicken and fish, red wine with beef and pork. Today the possibilities o wine and food pairings are endless. However, this is a really outdated notion. If you find yourself stumped as to which dishes go best with which wines, ask your sommelier for advice. Once you have a final menu, print it on good quality cardstock in an attractive font that is easy to read.

    Read a Sample Restaurant Wine Tasting Menu

  1. Advertise…Advertise…Advertise

    Once you have the details of the wine tasting (date, time, wine list, dinner menu, price) it’s time to get the word out. Along with a stellar social media campaign, you can also also advertise in-house with table tents and menu inserts to alert your regular customers of the wine tasting.

  2. Sell Tickets or Take 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.

  3. 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.

  4. Decorate the Dining Room

    Dress up your dining room for the wine tasting. Have theme music playing softly in the background. Cover the tables with crisp linens and display cards with the nights wine list and dinner menu as part each table setting. Perhaps incorporate wine bottles or grapes into centerpieces. You don’t need to do an extreme makeover, just adding a few touches to the dining room will suffice.

  1. Train Your Staff

    Go over 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 (where is this made? What types of grapes are used?... ect…). Top notch service will go a long way in ensuring repeat business for future wine tastings. Read more about serving alcohol responsibly in your restaurant. 

  2. Be a Visible Host

    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.