Most of us look forward to weddings and parties, even though the reality is that the wines served at most such functions aren’t always the greatest… and that would be putting it mildly. So what can we do? As I see it, we have several options. We can do nothing and continue to allow banquet halls and event planners trying to maximize profits or minimize costs to choose the cheapest overpriced plunk they think they can get away with. But for anyone who enjoys wine, this is not a viable option.
The best option is to ask to bring in your own wine. Providing the corkage fee is not insane, you can often buy and provide better wine yourself for the same cost the caterer would charge for lesser plunk. Even if you pay a few dollars more, at least you know what you’re getting and how it tastes. To determine how much wine you will need, it helps to know the crowd, how many guests will likely drink wine and how many teetotalers there are. Once you get a bead on the number of guests, figure at least three glasses or a half bottle of wine per wine drinker. You can always adjust that number with the circumstances (availability of designated drivers and other alcoholic beverages, length and type of affair, etc.).
Now for the million dollar question? What should I serve? The answer to that question is simple: a variety of as many good white and red wines as you can afford, without confusing the crowd. If I had to pick a reasonable number of wines to offer, I would stick with five or six at most. For starters, a well made Italian Pinot Grigio or similar light white wine is a must. And for that, the 2012 or 2013 Lungarotti Pinot Grigio gets my nod. It’s not the cheapest, but it won’t break the bank either. And of course a decent Chardonnay is obligatory. Casarena from Argentina offers an excellent reasonably priced Chardonnay that will please both Old and New World Chardonnay drinkers. Among reds, Cabernet Sauvignon is the number one favorite, with Pinot Noir coming on strong and gaining favor over Merlot, though Syrah is increasingly a crowd pleaser these days, too. Again Casarena offers a reasonably priced wine in their Cabernet, and it’s better than good for a crowd. For Pinot Noir, why not consider Pietra Santa’s Estate Pinot Noir from Cienega Valley California or Sherwood’s Marlborough Pinot from New Zealand; both present themselves well at a fair price. Given the growing appeal of Syrah, I would choose Syrah over Merlot, unless you know the crowd is definitely into Merlot. Black Pearl from South Africa makes a reasonably priced Syrah that is second to none at the price, so have a party and enjoy!