Wines for Special Occasions Celebrations Dinners

By Bro Mike, Wine Correspondent

With its diverse range of varieties and flavours, quality wine can complement the spirit of any celebration, whether guests are gathering for a birthday, wedding, graduation, Christmas party, other important milestones or a special dinner with good company.

To pick the perfect wines for your next event, offer a range of options to suit guests' tastes.

On average, approximately 30 percent to 50 percent of guests will drink white wine, 30 percent to 50 percent will drink red wine and 10 percent to 20 percent will drink sparkling wine. In addition, women tend to be white wine drinkers, while men more often prefer red wine.

A safe guide is to serve white before red, lighter wines before heavier wines, dry before sweet and young before old. Think of it as you would prepare a menu: more often than not the more delicate dish precedes the richer more flavoured dish; it’s the same with the wine.

Also, consider the time of year when serving certain wines. Bigger reds work well in autumn and winter, while lighter red wines such as rose or mascato and citrusy white wines are a refreshing choice for a warmer summer event. A full-bodied white like Chardonnay offers a perfect year-round choice.

Matching food and wine effectively can transform both and make any special occasion a triumphant experience.

If hors d'oeuvres will be served, break out the bubbly. Choose from festive sparkling wines or champagne. You'll also want to have a champagne or sparkling wine for any toasting. My favourite is a good quality Australian sparkling Shiraz that is not too sweet.

Next, consider what entrees or main dishes you are serving and select wines that will enhance the food. For bigger red wines, shiraz and cabernet complement beef or lamb dishes or pastas with red sauces. Chardonnay is a widely popular, versatile white wine that pairs well with poultry dishes, pork, veal, seafood or recipes featuring a cream base. Aromatic whites such as Riesling have a balance of good acidity with a touch of sweetness making an ideal partner for spicy Asian dishes. Lighter fruity reds, such as Pinot Noir which also has good acidity, is the combination to have with duck or fatty birds.

To round off the meal with final courses such as dessert or a cheese platter there are many different styles of sweet wine that can be served. Late picked or botrytised[1] wines such as Riesling balance the sweetness and tartness in fruit desserts whereas, chocolate lovers should indulge in a liqueur Muscat or Tokay from Rutherglen. If serving cheeses tannic heavily oaked wines are not a friendly option whereas, wines with good acidity are.

Finally, determine how much you're willing to spend, and realize that price is not always a direct reflection of quality. In your quest for the perfect wines for your event, rely on a good wine merchant who can help you select wines that will suit your guests' tastes as well as your budget. The most reliable wine stores hand-pick their wines based on actual tastings.

[1] Also known as “Noble rot” (French: pourriture noble; German: Edelfäule; Italian: Muffa) is the benevolent form of a grey fungus, Botrytis cinerea, affecting wine grapes. Sweet wines made from grapes affected by botrytis cinera.