Ultimate Guide to Dinner Party Wine

dinner party wine

Wine is pretty much a staple at most dinner parties, so taking the time to properly select the best wine will help make your night a success. We’ll go through everything you need to know about serving wine at a dinner party including plenty of tips and rules you should keep in mind. There are four main types of wine you should be thinking about for your dinner party.

  • Sparkling wine
  • White wine
  • Red wine
  • Rose wine 
  • Dessert wine

Don’t panic if this seems a bit over the top. You don’t have to serve all these different types of wine, it’s just a guide to get you started. You should think about the different type of food you’re serving and which wine will pair best. We’ll go through the best wines to serve with different dishes, the best wine glass shapes, the optimal temperature to serve the wine and some rules you should follow. 

Let’s get started so you can decide on which types of wine you need for your dinner party, the basic rules and serving tips!

Rules for Serving Wine at a Dinner Party

Serving wine at a dinner party doesn’t have to be too complicated, but there are definitely some rules you should try and keep in mind. This will help enhance the experience and make sure you and your guests get the most out of the wine at your dinner party. 

  • White wine pairs best with white meat and fish.
  • Red wine works best with red meat and you should avoid serving it with fish. 
  • Try and serve white wine before red wine if you can.

  • Always serve simple or lighter wines before complex or heavier wines.
  • Aim to serve dry wine before sweet wine. 
  • Light wine before heavy wine.

  • Serve each type of wine at the correct temperature. Read ahead to find out the best temperatures for sparkling, red and white wines. 

  • Try and get the best shaped glass for each wine type. We’ll go through this more later, but you need to choose the best size and whether to go for a tear or bulb shape.

  • Don’t overfill the glass. The remaining space in the glass is essential to allow the best taste, so only fill the red wine up to the widest point in the glass, and white or sparkling wine a touch fuller. 

  • Stemless glasses look cool, but stemmed glasses are the best for flavour. 

Sparkling Wine

Sparkling wines are great to offer at the start of your dinner party. Make a toast to start the evening off with. Champagne is a great idea if you want to go all, but Prosecco is perfect if you’re on a tighter budget. 

Best Glass: Flute or narrow tear drop shape with a long stem

Optimal Serving Temperature: Ice-Cold

Budget Option: Prosecco

Luxury Option: Champagne 

White Wine

Dry white wines with a higher acidity are good to serve at dinner parties because they are still quite versatile and go well with a range of foods. Choose a crisp Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc if you’re on a budget. 

Best Glass: Medium size bulb shape

Optimal Serving Temperature: Fridge-Cold

Dry Option: Pinot Grigio 

Sweet Option: Sweet Riesling 

Versatile Option: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay or Pinot Gris

Red Wine

If you’re serving steak, red wine is a must. If you want a rich dark red wine, go for a Cabernet Sauvignon. But if you want a more adaptable option, then a Pinot Noir will do perfectly. 

Best Glass: Large bulb shape glass

Optimal Serving Temperature: Room Temperature 

Rich Full-Bodied Option: Cabarnet Sauvignon 

Lighter Option: Pinot Noir

Rosé Wine

Rosé wine is the perfect option if you’re serving a range of different food at your dinner party and you don’t want to be serving multiple wines. It’s the most adaptable of all the types of wine and goes well with both fish and meat. 

Best Glass: Medium size tear-drop shape glass

Optimal Serving Temperature: Lightly Chilled

Dry Option: Pinot Noir Rosé

Sweet Option: Pink Moscato

Versatile Option: Cabernet Franc Rosé

Dessert Wine

This is often an overlooked aspect of wine selection at a dinner party, but serving a dessert wine is a great way to go the extra mile and really make the most of your dessert choice. 

Best Glass: Small bulb-shape glass

Optimal Serving Temperature: Room Temperature 

Versatile Option: Sherry

Red Dessert Wine Option: Port

Inexpensive Dessert Wine: Riesling 

Luxury Dessert Wine Options: Sauternes 

Order of Wines to Serve at a Dinner Party

The exact order you serve each different type of wine at your dinner party will depend on the type of food you’re serving. But generally this is the best order to serve each type of wine, and some rules to help keep you on track. 

  • Sparkling wine should be served when the guests arrive and before the starter is served
  • Follow with white or red wine when the food is served. It’s usually best to follow white wine with red wine, rather than to serve red then white. 
  • Serve the dessert wine finally.
  • Go back to the red wine if the guests will be staying after the meal for some games or entertainment. 

How Much Wine to Serve at a Dinner Party

The amount of wine you need to have for your dinner party depends on a few factors:

  • How many different wines you’re serving. The more types, the less you’ll need of each.
  • Length of time left between courses. The longer the wait, the more wine you’ll need. 
  • The individual guests and how quick their drinking pace is. 

A general rule of thumb is to go for around 1/4 to 1/3 of a bottle of wine per guest at your dinner party. This is the case if you are choosing 3 courses and aim for the dinner party to last around 2-3 hours. Adjust accordingly if you’re hosting a longer dinner party, having after-dinner entertainment or more/less courses. 

Wine Decanting

If you want to go the extra mile at your dinner party, then think about decanting your wine. Decanting red and white wine dramatically improves it’s flavour and there are a few ways you can do it.

  • Glass pitcher or wine decanter
  • Using a wine aerator 

Using an aerator is an instant way to decant wine to improve the flavour. But if you want to keep things traditional, then invest in a glass pitcher or wine decanter and pour the wine in around 30-45 minutes before you aim to serve it. 

It doesn’t matter how expensive the wine is, decanting it is a great way to enhance the flavour. It’s not uncommon to experience a sulfur-like aroma with some wines and can happen more often with cheaper wines. Decanting will help reduce this aroma and make the wine taste much better. 

We hope you found this guide to dinner party wine helpful and that you have a great night!

If you’re looking to make your dinner party as perfect as possible, then take a look at our complete dinner party guide. It’s full of great hosting and planning tips, plus food and entertainment ideas.

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