Follow these 5 best tips for serving wine at a party. As a wine enthusiast I’ve done my fair share of reading and studying about the joys of sipping and serving wine. I’ve been fortunate to visit wine makers in Washington state, Virginia, and the Tuscan region of Italy. Here’s all you really need to know!
Serving wine at a party
As a general rule, having plenty of wine on hand is my number 2 party rule. The first rule is to have the right mix of people with the right attitude! And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in all my years of wine tasting events, it’s that wine makes people the most friendly and happy to be around!
Here are my top picks you’ll need for entertaining with wine. They are affiliate links.
5 Basic Tips for Serving Wine
As you read the tips below, think about ways to incorporate wine into your schedule. You could host a wine tasting happy hour with the girls, or a wine & cheese ladies night with your besties. Another fun idea is this wine tasting party with DIY sandwich bar. So many options!
How much wine do you need?
In short, make sure you have more wine than you think you’ll need.
Whether you’re serving a crowd or an intimate gathering, you want to make sure to have plenty of wine on hand. Usually 1 bottle for every 2 people is the rule. You should get about 5 glasses of wine per bottle.
I’ll be honest though. I like to play it safe and plan for 3/4 of a bottle per person if wine is the only alcohol drink being served. So if I have a party of 20, I like to have 15 bottles of wine.
That may sound like a lot, but you can always save the unopened bottles for another time. The key is to not run out of booze during a party.
Also note, people will drink slower over a dinner party than they will at a cocktail party. But people typically drink about a 5-ounce serving over an hour. Here’s a timeline to keep in mind.
- Pre-dinner drinks = 1 or 2 per person.
- Wine with dinner = 2 per person.
- Wine with dessert and post-meal socializing = 1 or 2 per person.
Red or White?
Offer several varieties of red and white wine when entertaining at home.
People have different tastes. Some like bold and dry, while others like light and sweet. Just for fun, see what your wine choice says about you.
- Cabernet and Merlot are usually bolder reds which go great with dinner. Think about serving them with steak or red sauce pasta.
- Pinot Noir and Shiraz are lighter and more versatile. They are great for appetizers. Pinot Noir is also known as the “Thanksgiving red wine” because it’s light and pairs well with turkey.
- A light, crisp Chardonnay or Souvignon Blanc goes well with fish or poultry. These are typically dryer whites and tastes great at an outdoor party.
- While Pinot Grigio and a not-too-sweet Riesling go great with appetizers. These jerk seasoned chicken skewers appetizers are fantastic served with Riesling.
How to Serve Wine
Follow the 20-minute Rule for proper temperature.
Please serve wine at the proper temperature! It really does effect the taste and enjoyment of the wine. I can’t tell you how many times people think I’m crazy for putting red wine in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. Or for not keeping whites like Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio, on ice. I think the rule of “serving red wine at room temperature” was started when room temperature was much colder. Nowadays it’s about 70 degrees which is too warm for red wine.
Optimal temperature for most reds is between 62 and 68 degrees. To achieve this all you have to do is place red wine in the refrigerator for 20 minutes before serving. We store our reds at 55 degrees in our wine fridge, so as it’s removed and served it will warm up to the 62-68 degrees that’s desirable. See a list of some of my favorite red wine for entertaining.
White wine served right out of the refrigerator is too cold. The optimal serving temperature is 49 to 55 degrees. To achieve this temperature let white wine sit outside the refrigerator for 20 minutes before serving. Of course there’s always an exception to the rules. In this case it’s Riesling and some sweeter or sparkling wines like Moscato or Rosé. Learn more with these 8 Rosé wine fun facts.
You know that harsh taste you get when you sip a glass of cold Chardonnay, or room temperature Cabernet? Yeah, it’s because it’s TOO COLD or TOO WARM respectively. Just follow the 20-Minute Rule to remedy that.
Let the wine breath.
Yes, you should let the wine breath which simply means it should be allowed to blend with air for a time.
Letting wine breathe is another “trick” that greatly effects the taste. If you have time, open your bottle and let it breathe. Many experts say to let it breathe all day long!
Or pour it into a wine decanter which is made specifically to allow more air to reach the wine. Since I don’t usually have that much time I love to use an aerator which adds air to the wine as you pour it through into your glass. I taste the biggest difference in Cabernet when I use it.
Swirl, baby Swirl!
Using the right glassware can significantly affect the taste of your wine. This is especially true for red wine. A larger ‘bowl’ with a smaller rim lets you swirl your wine within the glass, to let even more air penetrate it. When I was on my press trip to the Washington vineyards, the experts were ALL about the swirl!
Now that you know a few basic tips about serving wine, did you know you can freeze an opened bottle for later? It’s not recommended for very high quality/priced wine. Nor should you ever freeze an unopened bottle because the water content will expand and can explode. Read more about freezing an opened bottle of wine here.