Evaluating and serving wine

Pick the best wine and try these wine-serving tips at your next party

Sara Schneider

Used right, wine can help make dinner parties stellar events. Here are tips for successful entertaining.

Start light
Wine before dinner has the same job as appetizers: to tease your palate and make you want to keep consuming, not tire your taste buds and get you to your alcohol limit fast. Pour something cold and crisp, with a reasonably low alcohol level ― Sauvignon Blanc or a dry Chenin Blanc or Riesling. If someone must have red, make it light and lively: Pinot Noir.

Go for personality
Match the wine to the mood of the food rather than its intricate flavors ― a hearty, casual (inexpensive) red with barbecue, for instance; a more elegant, special red with an expensive steak.

Pour in pairs
Two glasses of the same color of wine in front of people spur dinner conversation: Does the Chardonnay or the Sauvignon Blanc do more for the pesto chicken? The Zinfandel or Syrah for the leg of lamb?

Help yourself
Survival tip from an easily derailed hostess: Don't make the mistake of eating nothing until your guests arrive. Otherwise, the first glass of wine you have will be on an empty stomach and will bring on the alcohol fuzzies quickly, muddling your endgame for getting dinner on the table.

Wine basics: