How Much Wine Do I Need?

Inasmuch as different groups are more or less inclined to drink wine at all, it’s difficult for me to recommend the proper quantity for your event based on invitees alone. Consider my two wedding receptions, each attended by 100 people – #1 was an equal mix of 20 year-old Marines, punk-rockers and horrified family at a Medieval themed banquet hall in Orange County that we had to be thrown out of at 5:45pm. #2 was relieved family along with co-workers and friends, most involved with wineries, at a Mayacamas Mountain Chalet near the Sonoma/Napa county line which was ours until such hour as we wished to depart.

One 750ml bottle of wine contains about 25.4 ounces of wine. An ordinary glass of wine is 5-7 ounces. A bottle of wine will yield 5 smallish or 4 generous glasses of wine. Figure 55-60 glasses of wine per 12 bottle x 750ml case. If you’re hiring a bartending service, ask what their target pour is. For a wedding reception figure at least one glass of sparkling wine per adult for the toast – often something special for the head table. For a day-time event consider about 30% Red, 60% White and 10% Sweet. For an evening affair 60% Red, 30% White, 10% Sweet

Q: What's the right wine for this meal?

A: The matter of food and wine pairing is best addressed during a personal consultation with a former sous chef and current wine retailer such as McKinney Wine Merchant but if you want to wing it, consider this: If you’re having a cookout or doing generous appetizers in a stand-up party format just get a variety of 3-5 fun wines that people can slosh around: Malbec, Zinfandel, Cote-du-Rhone, Valpolicella, Almansa for red – Whites might include one light and one bolder Chardonnay a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris.

For more serious food or a more formal setting you can’t go too wrong with white/red meat/wine adage. Lighter/crisper whites such as Albarino, Pinot Blanc, Unoaked Chardonnay work best where dishes have higher acid ingredients such as a lemon, wine, tomato or vinegar (btw super-acidic or brined foods aren’t ‘great’ matches for any wine – sauerkraut, pickles, salsa, olives). As for red wine – more fat, more power. Lighter to bigger reds: Gamay, Pinot Noir, Grenache, lighter Syrah, Malbec, Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, heavy Syrah, Tempranillo, Petite Sirah, Nebbiolo, Petit Verdot (there are plenty of caveats/exceptions to this scale – I’m sure to hear about it!)

Q: What temperature should I serve the wine at?

A: Most white and sparkling: 45-50 degrees Lighter reds i.e. Gamay & Pinot Noir: 55-60 degrees (35 minutes in the fridge prior to service) Bigger reds i.e. Cab, Chianti, Malbec: 60-65 (25 minutes in the fridge)

If the wine is too cold, swirl it in the palm of your hand. If it’s too hot, throw an ice cube in it – a little watered down is better than combustible.

Q: How do I know which wine to let breathe?

A: First of all – pulling a cork and setting a full bottle aside does not provide the air/wine interface necessary to aerate wine to a point that will discernably ‘open it up’ or reduce tannic effect. Generally younger wines of made from grapes of higher tannin content are candidates for decanting. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese, Syrah & Nebbiolo are a few. A good rule of thumb is that if you sip a freshly opened bottle of wine and your teeth start to squeek, you should transfer it to a larger vessel for some time prior to service. A wine that is not ‘drinking well’ after 45 minutes is either too young or irredeemably tannic. Lastly, if you open an old bottle of wine that tastes great in the first few minutes but the color begins to change from a lovely purple or red to a more brickish tone – drink fast and be prepared to write it off. It was fine sealed up in a cool, dark bottle but is taking to air like a vampire to sunlight.

Q: What's the deal with screw-caps?

A: If 200 years ago there were an economic way to place a metal, threaded, sealing closure on a bottle we would only know cork as something our grandfathers’ outfitters had used to make fishing bobbers from. Cork is a wood product harvested from trees. Despite all the effort