Buying wine for your dinner party

Jacqueline Zonkowski
Lifestyle grey Dot

Everything you need to get the right wine for dinner

You’re buying wine for your dinner party, but you’re not sure if you should stock up on red or white wine. From everything, you’ve read or been told by people who “know wine,” is that you serve white wine with fish and red wine with beef. So now you’re standing in the middle of your local wine shop in a cold sweat. You’re a great host and are serving steak tartare and caviar with crème fraise as an amuse-bouche, shrimp cocktail, and carpaccio as an appetizer, and then the lobster tail and filet mignon as your entrée. What wines do you buy? How do you satisfy everyone? 

Take a deep breath and every time you get nervous about making wine selections, tell yourself that wine is simply fermented grape juice. Wine is only as intimidating as we make it. The wine itself is pretty simple and provides all the information we need if we pay a little attention.

Take the pressure off — get a variety of red, white, and sparkling

Honestly, the only opinion that matters when choosing a wine is the person drinking it. If you love red wine and don’t particularly like white, that’s fine. Drink red wine with fish. Knock yourself out! Just try to find a lighter red that will pair well with a delicate fish. Remember, wine is all about personal preference.

Let’s get back to our dinner party conundrum. Get a variety of wines based on your guests and what you think they will like. Select a few reds, whites, and even a couple of sparkling and dessert wines. Still worried about which to choose? 

Ask questions

If you have a boutique wine shop near you, start there. Seeing wine labels that you don’t usually see in your warehouse store is a good thing! That means the owner or manager of the shop will be very knowledgeable because they likely specialize in buying from smaller non-industrial vineyards. They will be happy to talk about what you are serving, who will be attending, and make educated recommendations on wine options.

Serve light to heavy

It is also a good idea to have an order of service in mind as you move through your evening. Start with the lighter, more subtle wines and then move into your robust wines as the evening progresses. If you start with bold, hearty wines, the subtleties of a crisp Chenin Blanc or a light Pinot Noir will be lost after a decadent Petit Sirah or creamy Chardonnay. More importantly, if a guest arrives and requests a glass of Merlot instead of what you were planning on serving first, go with the flow and give them what they want. 

Again, wine is about personal preference, and it’s more important for everyone to be happy than for your ‘Michelin Star’ dinner party to go exactly as planned. So stop stressing when you’re buying wine for your next dinner party; raise a glass and toast your guests instead!

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About Jacqueline Zonkowski

As an avid traveler, Jacqueline started finding herself in popular wine regions around the world, fueling her passion for food and wine. When she isn't traveling you will find her at home with a glass of wine in hand and a smile on her face while tasting new recipes with her Chef husband. She received her WSET Level II Certification with Distinction, Argentina Wine Specialist, and Oregon Wine Expert certifications. Jacqueline has worked in the wine marketing and hospitality industry for many years. She continues to increase her wine knowledge and looks forward to creating her own wine one day.