Wine Serving Suggestions

Once you have found the wine whose taste thrills you, the thing to do is run, don't walk, to the same store where you got it, and buy a few more bottles from the same lot. This is good advice because if you wait a few months to buy another bottle, it may not taste the same. Remember that few wineries are able to supply unchanging flavor and aroma in their products from month to month, much less from year to year.

Don't buy too much at a time, however. The quantity depends on how soon you are going to use it, and whether you have a cool place away from the furnace and sunlight in which to store it, with corked bottles lying on their sides. You should not buy a larger bottle of table wine than you are likely to use up within a day or two after it is opened. If you have a partially filled bottle of this low-alcohol-content wine left over from dinner, put it into your refrigerator; it will keep longer there.

A "fifth" (4/5 quart) of table wine ordinarily serves two, three, or four people at a meal. It is by far the most popular size. Experience tells you when to graduate to larger containers. Incidentally, wine is cheaper by the case, which contains twelve bottles or twenty-four half bottles. Most stores will give you

Most American wines are bottled in either "fifths" or quarts. But European table wines frequently come in somewhat smaller bottles; sometimes they hold only 3/4 quart or even an ounce less. So note the net contents before you buy, to see whether you are getting your money's worth.

The best bargains in wine drinking are the half-gallon and gallon jugs that you find in practically all wine stores. Only American wines come in these particular economy sizes, but some Italian wines are sold in large "fiaschi," and you sometimes find French wines in magnums, which are double the size of a "fifth."

Here is an additional economy tip: to get the by-the-gallon price and still protect your table wine from spoiling, transfer the contents of a gallon jug into ten screw-capped half bottles, carefully washing and drying them first; and keep them in the refrigerator until time for use.

A common question asked is what quantities a host should buy for a club banquet or a large party. It has been recommended that for weddings, a bottle of Champagne (slightly more than six four-ounce glasses) for every three persons, unless the guests include many teetotalers, in which circumstance a bottle will serve six. For pre-dinner wine pouring, a bottle will provide a little more than twelve two-ounce servings. With a second helping for each, the bottle thus takes care of six people.

At a mixed-company banquet, no matter how many different table wines are on the menu, allow an over-all average of one bottle for every four persons, and expect to need a larger quantity of the first wine served than of those that follow. But if it is to be a full-course dinner for an all-male group of connoisseurs, calculate pre-dinner Champagne consumption at a third of a bottle per man, assorted table wines at a half bottle each, and dessert wine at a bottle for every half-dozen men. It is very possible, however, for the total wine consumption to average two bottles per guest and still leaves everyone walking to their taxicab with a perfectly steady gait! This can happen only when wine is consumed with rich food.

But returning to the subject of ordinary purchases, there are seven prime secrets of successful wine shopping: Experiment freely, because it is fun and inexpensive. Give your guests a choice among wines: Cabernet Franc and Gewurztraminer, as an example. Buy small bottles at first. Try the inexpensive as well as the more costly wines. Buy at stores which have not kept the wine too long; be sure it is in good condition.

When you find a Carignane you like, buy some more of the same, but only the quantity you can store safely. And finally, once again this reminder: if you are going to trust a dealer to select your wine purchases for you, be sure to pick one who regularly drinks wine himself.

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About The Author, Sarah Martin
Sarah Martin is a freelance marketing writer specializing in fine wines: Carignane, Cabernet Franc, and Gewurztraminer; the history of wine, viniculture, and California vineyards. For a wide selection of wine varietals, please visit