How to Avoid Choosing a Wrong Wine for an Event

Green Acres row of event wine glasses

How the hell did I get talked into writing about not choosing a wrong wine?

I’m sure you’re used to reading expert articles on wine-related matters so I’m going to come clean up-front.  I am responding to a challenge laid down by my co-directors in Green Acres to write a blog post and I’ll fully admit I was a nervous wreck just thinking about it.

We only commenced this blog, in earnest, last April and since then James and Donal have contributed and they are now challenging me to ‘chip in’. “It’ll come naturally to you” prompted James. Donal said, “look at us, we only started earlier this year – now we are experts!” They were absolutely no help – either of them.

My nervousness related to going public and finding a topic I could write about.

“Ask yourself this question” suggested James being a little more helpful, “what is the most frequently asked question by your friends when chatting about wine?” When I thought about it – I realised a lot of my friends confess to a sense of nervousness about choosing a wrong wine when planning or attending an event.

So as not to just restrict my research to friends, I also had a chat with my colleagues on the shop floor in Green Acres. They gave me a bunch of wine questions that they are asked by customers, on a daily basis. I’ll pick some of them and give my opinions in a moment.

Now to be fair, at work, I usually leave the wine advising to the two lads but I thought maybe in my first ever blog post, I could share my own perspective on wine and events.

It might even be a help to some people who are nervous about choosing a wrong wine or if I get through this – writing a blog post.

There is no wrong wine – love the wine you’re with.

OK – so here goes, I believe that there is no such thing as choosing the wrong wine for an event.

I say that because in my experience, everybody’s wine taste, preferences and those of their guests vary so much it is almost an impossibility to serve a wrong wine. Stop searching for the perfect wine and look for those that will provide different experiences.

Would you agree that when people are hosting an event, they are looking for wines that will prove to be popular so that their guests will enjoy being there? Yep, I thought you would. This point backs up my belief that your wine experience is determined by the place you’re in and the people you’re with.  So whatever the scenario – love the wine you’re with.

spilled wine love heart

For example, there are over 1,500 wine choices in Green Acres. However,  when I get together with my friends there, sometimes just we prefer a wine that tastes good without an explanation so we can have a chat about other things (very important things obviously).

In my mind, there are no hard and fast rules about choosing wines, it’s all about personal preference. So there is no wrong or right wine. However, when you do have a personal preference, a little assistance from your local wine retailer will go a long way to creating a better wine experience at your event.

Popular wrong wine questions and my opinions.

  • “How many bottles of wine do I need for x amount of dinner party guests?”

If you’re planning to have, say, more than 10 people over, there are a few variables I would keep in mind. Variables such as: is it a sit-down meal or a stand-up plate-in-hand? Will it be an early or late night? How many people will be drinking wine vs spirits vs beer?

From a wine perspective, I work on getting six (four ounce) glasses from a bottle of wine (sit-down), but four glasses if it is stand-up. Of course, this will vary, but you know your friends best  – right?

If you don’t know personal preferences of colour, I’d go 70/30 red/white in general and 1 sparkling. If it’s going to be a long night I would plan a bottle per person and have a mixed case waiting in the background.

The type of wine I’d serve would be based on two things – a nominal budget and what food I’m serving. This is where your local wine outlet will be best able to advise on the pairing.

Can I put a plug for Green Acres in here? If you don’t want the hassle of planning your wine – we do party services and will help you choose the wine, deliver it to you and take back what you don’t use. Contact us here.

  • “What’s a good dinner wine?”

This is really a broad question but in general, I’d go with a crisp white wine such as a Chablis (France), a Gavi or Pinot Grigio (Italy), or a Sauvignon Blanc from almost anywhere. These wines will keep people’s palate fresh.

With reds, I would suggest that a Pinot Noir is more forgiving for most people or if you want to go a little bolder, try a Garnacha from Spain or a Chianti from Italy.

If you really want to push the boat out you could offer a sweet wine or a port with the dessert but I don’t believe many people would miss them, to be honest. Maybe a bottle of Baileys in the fridge wouldn’t be a bad idea.

  • “What type of wine should I bring to a party?”

I always bring a type of wine that I know the hosts like, even if I don’t like it myself. A bottle for around €15 will always ensure quality and value. If you have no idea what they like – I think a sparkling wine is a very versatile alternative.

  • “Sparkling vs still wine as a gift?”

Gifts need a little more thought. Finding a vintage the same year as the recipient is a lovely idea but difficult to find and usually expensive. Personally, I always go for the bubbles option. There are wonderful alternatives out there with a price tag to suit most pockets. Value to me is always in the eye of the beholder.

I’m on a roll now – thanks for sticking with me.

Paula O Connor picture

  • “I want to find a bottle I had on holidays recently – can you help me?”

If you enjoy a particular wine when you’re on hols, take a pic of the bottle (before you finish it). When you get back, if your local wine retailer doesn’t stock it – they can at least match the country, region, and grape. As I said earlier – a wine experience depends on place and people. Replicating your holiday wine experience at home might, therefore, be difficult but with a little help from your local wine retailer – you never know.

Replicating your holiday wine experience at home might require a little help from your local wine retailer. Click To Tweet
  • “How come the price of wine varies so much between retail outlets?”

Word-of-mouth will always surface the brilliant bottle of brand xyz a person purchased for only €x. Sometimes this annoys me because working in the industry, I know they’re not comparing like with like.

I’m not going to debate the actions of either bulk buying multi-nationals or less scrupulous providers here in this post. All I can say is that most of the smaller wine retailers will have a personal relationship with the wine producer/supplier. This ensures better quality, value, and consistency.

Do you want to enjoy a bottle of wine at a different level? Find out the story behind it. If there’s no story – sip away and enjoy the company.

  • “I really love xyz wine – what do you think of it?”

Many, many of my friends suggest their favourite tipple to me and ask me what I think about their choice. Mostly, I avoid giving a judgment. Instead, I usually try and find out what it is they like about it. Then, if I’m aware of a better example of that taste they prefer, I will make a suggestion. I stick to my motto though, if you love it – drink it.

  • “If a guest brings a bottle of wine to my party, should I open it or use my own?”

Finally, the question about which there are most arguments. It revolves around the ethical question of opening a bottle brought by a guest – or not.

I’ve had many the great discussions over a coffee on this one. Some people say if it’s a cheap bottle, open it and make the bringer suffer too (lol). Others suggest to save it and bring it back to the people when they are hosting. I’ve also heard it said that if it’s a good bottle, one should keep it for private consumption and others argue not to open it if it is better than that being offered by yourself.

OK, so here’s my tuppence worth. If you’re entertaining, you will have planned particular type of wines to serve. Well then, serve as planned irrespective of what has been brought as gifts. If (when) you run out of your wine then whisper to one of the ‘bringers’ is it OK to open and share their wine.

set dinner table with wine glasses

OK, I’d better finish now.

I hope some of my answers above have helped paint the picture of wine choice being one of personal preference, and nothing else. For the majority of people, I believe wine is a beverage that helps to build memorable experiences, not of the wine itself, but amongst family and friends.

This post has alleviated some of my own nervousness about writing for public consumption so I suppose I have to thank my colleagues for pushing me into doing so.

And thank you for bearing with me.

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We look forward to engaging with you soon – Cheers, Paula

wine bottle and glass silhouette