If you have trouble distinguishing your pinot gris from your cab sav, let alone figuring out which wine goes with what dish – don’t despair. With a little basic know-how you can make the right wine list choices and leave your guests with a smile on their faces.
Photo: Love Jennifer – Photography by Jennifer Skabo
While a bit of wine knowledge may make you feel more confident in your choices, the best rule to remember when choosing a wine is that there are no hard and fast rules. The best indicator of a good wine is simply one that pleases your palette. There are some loose guidelines when matching food to wine, but these do not always apply in every single case, and it will always depend on the person doing the drinking.
Generally heavier, stodgier food matches best with red wine, while lighter meals are often complemented by a white wine. Some even like to stick to the proviso that white wine matches white meat while red wine matches red meat, however this may not always be the case. Pork for example can be a borderline meat, depending on how it is served. If it has a fruity accompaniment then white may taste better, while a heavier gravy based sauce and roast vegetables may lend itself to a red wine. White meats such as fish (or any seafood for that matter) and chicken do tend to go well with white wines such as a Riesling or a Chardonnay, as do foods such as stir-fries and Thai dishes (many Asian dishes are also well-complemented by beer too). A Chardonnay is always a good, safe bet when choosing a white wine. Riesling is also a popular choice, having made a major comeback over the years. If you want something a little less sweet then a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris is another good choice. Sparkling whites are also often a good match with the saltiness of seafood.
There are also many whites at the other end of the scale which are very sweet and fruity and go well with desserts. However, don’t feel obliged to provide different wines for different courses, as most people are happy to move from a white to a red or stick to one type of wine for the night. Likewise, many people will be ready for a coffee by dessert time or don’t enjoy wine with their sweets.
Most red wine drinkers love the full-bodied flavours of a Cabernet Sauvignon. Although this is probably best suited to heavier food options such as your Beef Wellingtons and steaks. For a red wine that is lighter and matches a wider variety of meals then a Pinot Noir or a Merlot is a good choice.
Ordering your beverages
Even if you are an avid wine buff who enjoys sampling a variety of wines, don’t fall into the trap of providing too many choices at your reception. Having a plethora of wines on offer may look clever, but can complicate the evening for guests and waiting staff. Two reds and two whites is plenty. If you want to provide something a little different for your guests then by all means do, but team it with a safer more popular choice to keep everyone happy.
Choosing how much wine to order is always a bit of a guess, but it’s better to have too much than too little. Any unopened leftovers can often be returned or will make a good start to your newlywed cellar. There are roughly four glasses of wine to a bottle. If you provide about three to four glasses per person (in addition to champagne, beer and soft drink), then this should keep your guests happy. Those who don’t drink much wine will compensate for those who drink less. Beer can be worked out through the night as most venues have it on tap.
In addition to the wine, make sure there is Champagne or sparkling wine available on the day, even if it is just for the toasts. Remember, true Champagne is sourced from the Champagne region of France, and will set you back a lot more than sparkling wine. For the speeches end of the evening you will need to allow about two glasses of Champagne or sparkling per person. Also make sure there is beer and soft drink available to all those who are not wine drinkers, and plenty of ice in hot weather.