Though I’m no sommelier (wine expert), I manage my way around wines by what I have learned from friends, experts, and myself. I’d like to help take the fear out of selecting the “perfect” wine by first letting you in a little secret. The “perfect” wines are those which please the palates of whoever is drinking them. Granted, those schooled in all the intrinsic qualities of a good wine can taste a wine and tell you everything from the variety of grape, to vintage, to the hair color of the person who slapped a label on the bottle.
Choosing the best wine will be easier if you first know a bit about the varieties and how they are best paired (Meaning, what goes best with each variety).
Let’s start with a few basic reds; Merlots, Pinot Noirs, Cabernets, and blends. These are mainly dry, meaning not sweet. Simple as that. All lovely choices for dark meat (especially the Cab!) and wonderful when paired with chocolate if serving after a meal (Oh, what the heck! Serve it with a chocolate truffle anytime!). Also great with hard cheeses, especially sharps such as aged cheddar. Looking for a wine more to the sweet side? Try a blend or a Lambrusco. Don’t laugh, you connoisseurs! I know many closet Lambrusco drinkers. Serve dry reds around 65-70 degrees, and if possible, pour into a decanter a few hours before serving. (This is to let it “breathe” like you have heard about) You will look so smart! Slightly chill the sweets.
On to whites! Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Moscato. For a great dry try the Chardonnay. Ask for an unoaked (not aged in oak barrels) variety, my fav, and for Pete’s sake, be sure to mention that in a matter of fact way to your guests. It will make you look like you know what you are doing. Pair with fish, fruit, and mild soft cheeses. For those guests with a penchant for sweeter varieties, try the Riesling, and for very sweet, the Moscato. Chill these two for best flavor. Again, serve with a lighter fare.
It’s not rocket science, and any reputable liquor store can help you pick something out, but the best advice I can give is to ask your guests what they like. Once you know that, you can surprise them with something similar, or play it safe and just get what they like. Experience is the best teacher.
Now, quit whining about wine and jump right in!