Many people are intimidated by having to choose a wine for a dinner party or hostess gift and feel certain that those who know how to choose a wine possess some guarded secret that if it was only revealed to them they would know exactly which bottle to purchase from the racks of daunting wine labels.
If you are one of those people who would prefer to bring the appetizer rather than the wine to a get-together, so sure are you that you will not be able to find a wine that everyone, or anyone, would enjoy, set your fears aside. While there are many great suggestions for selecting wine, there is no great secret, and there are no hard set rules for choosing wine.
I realize that learning this may actually instill greater fear in those looking for a checklist that having found everything on the list will ensure they’ve found the best wine selection, however, knowing how to choose a wine is easier than you think.
How to Choose a Wine for a Dinner Party
If you are asked to bring the wine for a dinner party, the first questions that typically come to mind go something like this, “Why me?”, “Red wine or white wine?” and “Isn’t there some rule about red wine with certain foods vs. white wine with certain foods, and what is the rule?”
The rule you are thinking about declared we must drink red wine with red (meat, sauce, etc.,) and white wine with white. Sorry, for those of you who are still hoping for a rule, but it’s no longer a rule. While there are foods that pair better with particular wine types and suggestion abound – I even have my own food and wine pairing list –, you should select your wine based on the wine types that you enjoy most: red, white, blush, or sparkling. The only option to consider when figuring out how to choose a wine is to trust your own judgment.
A good reason for trusting your own personal preferences is that the taste of wine varies by person sipping it. That is to say that no two people taste the same thing; you can be drinking out of the same glass of wine as someone else, and each of you will taste something different.
However, for dinner party purposes, keep in mind that a wine that you have enjoyed with a heavy or full-entrée meal will not necessarily taste the same when served with appetizers. For learning how to choose a wine purposes, I suggest choosing a lighter wine – red, white, or blush – to go with appetizers or for enjoying without food and vice versa, a heavier wine to go with dinner.
Great “light red” options include the Syrah’s, Pinot Noirs, or Sangiovese wines, just to name a few; heavier reds are the Merlots or the Cabernet Sauvignons (the king of red wines). A heavier white wine option would be a Chardonnay and lighter white wine options include most all other white wines.
Sparkling wines or Champagne go with nearly anything, including dessert.
Having said this, I need to mention you might find a Pinot Noir heavier than Merlot or a Riesling heavier than Sauvignon Blanc. To really know what you are getting is to taste an individual label to see what you think of it.
If you (or your host) are “dyed in the wool” red with red and white with white believer, there are two good options that many wine connoisseurs will say are a no-fail wine with dinner selection. Here you won’t go wrong if you choose a Pinot Noir as your red wine complement to dinner or a dry (not sweet) Riesling for your white wine complement.
How to Choose a Wine – How Much Does a Good Wine Cost?
A good tasting wine does not have to be expensive. There are many good wine labels that sell for less than $20 USD. Typically you will find the most well-known wine regions and wine labels to be more expensive, like a Napa Valley or a Kendall Jackson, and while they often produce very fine wines, they are not the only great wines in the wine world. In fact, Napa Valley produces only 4% of California wine. Try other California counties as well as other countries to discover great wines at a reasonable price. France, Italy, Chile, Australia, Argentina, New Zealand, and even South Africa are producing wonderful less-known wines at great values.
How to Choose a Wine Seller – Where to Purchase a Good Wine
Knowing how to choose a wine seller is half the battle. Check out your local wine sellers to find one that not only stocks the wines you like, but whose manager is knowledgeable about the wines they sell. This could be found at a local vineyard or a store, but the wine sellers should be able to help you select a wine label based on your needs and tastes. You may know what type of wine you want and they should be able to recommend some good labels to try.
Often a wine seller will host wine tasting events where you can sample different wines and these are always a good way to find new labels for your enjoyment and is a good way of learning how to choose a wine.
Still, judge for yourself what labels you want to buy based on what is available in the area. If you purchase wine labels recommended by the wine seller, you’ll learn after a very few purchases if they are understanding your needs. Maybe they don’t know how to choose a wine! If you don’t think their wine label recommendations are matching up with your needs, move on to another wine seller.
Here are a few guidelines for making good wine choices:
White Wines (lightest to fullest in body and flavor)
- Pinot Grigio
- Sauvignon Blanc
Red Wines (lightest to fullest in body and flavor)
- Pinot Noir
- Red Zinfandel
- Cabernet Sauvignon (King of the reds)
There are really no other rules involved in selecting a good wine for any occasion. The only really important thing to remember when learning how to choose a wine, is to purchase a wine – red, white, blush, or sparkling, sweet, dry, light-bodied or full-bodied – that tastes best to you.