With the official start of spring now behind us, it’s time to start planning all of the holidays and other celebrations that come around this time of year. As you’ll likely be gathering around the dinner table – or on the patio – over the coming months, it’s good to know how to thoughtfully pair wine with the type of gathering that you are hosting.
At Baskets Gourmet/Wine World, we have a long history of helping individuals select the ideal wine for their occasion, so we’re excited to provide our recommendations to you. Without further ado, let’s host a party!
The Traditional Dinner Party: Choosing Wine for Mother's Day, Father's Day and Other Formal Dinners
For most people, the simple mention of a “dinner party” conjures up the image of 6 to 8 guests gathered around a formally set table, enjoying 3 courses of meals. With Mother’s Day and Father’s Day ahead, you’ll likely have a reason to sit around the table with your immediate family during the coming months. While this may be the type of dinner party most frequently enjoyed by the majority of people, it can also be one of the most challenging types to plan. After all, when you have a group of 6 people or more it can be difficult to anticipate every individual’s preferences, let alone satisfy everyone. This is why, when it comes to selecting a wine for a traditional dinner party, you want to keep your selection – well – traditional.
Determining the Number of Bottles
To start, you will need to decide how many bottles of wine you will want on hand. For a formal dinner, consider having 3 bottles for every 4 people in attendance, including you. This means that for 8 guests, you’ll want to have 6 bottles on hand. In the event that you need a partial number – such as 7 ½ bottles for 10 guests – round up. It’s better to have more than you need, than make a guest go without.
From here, of course, you will need to select how many of those bottles will feature red wine and how many will feature white. For formal dinners, offering 1 bottle of white wine for every 2 bottles of red wine is a good rule of thumb. In the event that you have a partial number and have to select between an additional bottle or red or an additional bottle of white, the former is generally more popular.
With these two ratios in mind, here is a quick list that you can refer to:
· For 6 guests: Have 5 bottles (3 red, 2 white)
· For 7 guests: Have 6 bottles (4 red, 2 white)
· For 8 guests: Have 6 bottles (4 red, 2 white)
· For 9 guests: Have 7 bottles (5 red, 2 white)
· For 10 guests: Have 8 bottles (6 red, 3 white)
Selecting Which Styles of Wine
Fortunately, the same foods and the same wines pair well together regardless if you’re serving them to 20 people or just 2 and so selecting exactly what style of wine to serve is much more straightforward.
Here are the classic food and wine pairings that you should be familiar with:
· For beef dishes (filet mignon, New York strip, etc.): Cabernet or Zinfandel
· For poultry dishes (chicken breast, turkey breast, etc.): Pinot Noir or Sauvignon Blanc
· For delicate fish (tilapia, sea bass, etc.): Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay
· For meaty fish (tuna, salmon, etc.): Merlot or Riesling
While there are many other styles of wines that you can choose – particularly if you want a wine that is more complimentary to the types of sauces, spices, or other condiments you may use – the wines listed here are perhaps some of the most recognized and universally enjoyed styles. This is important to keep in mind, of course, because the last thing you would want to do is provide a wine that it can only be appreciated by a portion of your guests.
The Large House Party: Choosing Wine for Graduation Parties, Bridal Showers and Other Celebrations
Spring isn’t just a time to celebrate parents – it’s about graduates, too! If you plan on having your extended family, your friends or even your neighbors over for a large celebration, the considerations you’ll need to make will be slightly different.
Determining the Number of Bottles
Where a glass of wine is often served as the compliment to an elegant meal, house parties tend to offer a broader array of beverage choices. That's not to say wine won't be expected at any large gatherings you host, but you may not need as much as you would for a dinner party, especially if you'll have beer or liquor available as well. If you plan to offer wine alongside other drink choices, have a 1/2 bottle of wine on hand for each guest attending as well as-as often the case is with house parties-additional people who may show up. This means that for 20 people, you should have at least 10 bottles on hand; for 50 people, you should have at least 25 bottles; and so forth.
Selecting the Styles of Wine
Choosing just how many bottles should feature red wine and how many should feature white wine will primarily come down to the foods you plan on serving. If you plan on serving dishes centered on beef, poultry, or fish, the aforementioned recommendations will still serve you well; however, you can also plan around specific types of appetizers.
· For heavily-spiced cold cut meats (capicola, etc.): Syrah
· For lightly-spiced cold cut meats (salami, prosciutto, etc.): Champagne
· For aged, hard cheeses (cheddar, parmesan, etc.): Zinfandel
· For fresh, spreadable cheeses (mozzarella, feta, etc.): Sauvignon Blanc
You may already be familiar with some of these pairings from our weekly wine tastings.
When in doubt, remember that food and wine pairings are about balance. Bold flavors pair well with full-bodied wines whereas more modest flavors are better suited for lighter-bodied choices. This is why a red wine makes for a natural compliment to a heavily-spiced, greasy meat such as capicola, but can be too overpowering for the fresh flavor of mozzarella. Also, take into account the level of acidity in your selection. Since both cold cut meats and cheeses feature high levels of fat, you'll want a wine that is high in acidity to create a balance.
The Small Get-Together: Choosing Wine for "Just Because" Occasions
Not every gathering needs to be an ornate affair. Whether you’re celebrating a modest birthday, anniversary, promotion or just an ever elusive thing called “Me Time,” all you need sometimes for a satisfying get-together is takeout, a bottle of wine and a few of your closest friends. Unlike a traditional dinner party or a large house party, your decisions are going to be a little more straightforward. For starters, when you have a group of approximately 5 people or less, you’re likely already familiar enough with these individuals to know just how many bottles of wine you’ll need. The question, then, isn’t about how many bottles you need but what style to choose.
If you already know in advance what type of food it is that you and your guests will be enjoying in advance, you can follow the same food and wine pairings suggested for traditional dinner parties and house parties. If, however, you know that your food choice will be a last-minute decision, you’ll want a wine that pairs well with a wide range of foods.
Grenache, Pinot Blanc, and Riesling can be paired with a diverse selection of foods. While it may be going too far to say, “Riesling pairs with everything” it certainly comes close. When in doubt, it can be your go-to selection for an impromptu gathering.
Keep in mind that the intimacy of a small group also affords you the opportunity to be adventurous. If you're familiar with the personal preferences of your guests, don't shy away from the opportunity to select a style of wine that's tailored to your group or even try something extravagant like Amarone. Boldly trying something new among good company will make the experience that much better!
Rosé wines – which are especially delightful when the weather is nice – are also an option if you are concerned about offering too many reds compared to whites or vice versa.
Of course, if this is a significant concern of yours, you could simply have more bottles on hand than you anticipate needing and just save what isn’t used for later. As many of us would agree, having “too much” wine is rarely a problem and you may even want to consider providing a bottle to your guests as they leave. In fact, a bottle of wine is one of the best gifts that a dinner host can provide and it will ensure that the occasion ends on a high note.
Let's Throw a Party!
Follow these recommendations and you’ll be well on your way to throwing a party that you and your guests will certainly remember. If you want to throw the best party possible, however, you can always turn to us.
At Baskets Gourmet/Wine World, we know a thing or two about throwing the best celebrations around. Next time you’re in Anderson Township, stop in and let our friendly and knowledgeable staff take the guess-work out of selecting the ideal type of wine.
Let's make your party a success, together! We look forward to your visit.