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Help me evaluate my party wine plan

Need some help with planning wine pairings for a meal. Normally this wouldn't be difficult, except:

-except for maybe a dozen people, my 100 guests are wine newbies.
-Some might not even like wine, but I do want the evening to be a chance to try something new (most of them are used to Chinese banquets and this will be the first time for them to do a Western meal with wine pairings)
-I want the dozen or so people who are used to this kind of event to have plenty of wine
-I don't want to waste a lot of wine in this process

I can finalize the menu and specific wines later, but I want to do:

-champagne to start
-white wine for the apps and fish
-red wine for the duck and beef

BIG QUESTION: would it be acceptable/smart to ask the servers to pour very small tastes (2 oz) for all guests, with instructions to check back in and see who's ready for more and who did not have a taste for that particular wine?

I know there will be waste, but I'm trying to minimize a lot of full glasses sitting around.

750mL bottle = 25 fl.oz, normal glass is 5-6 ounce, taste is 2 oz, right?

I will also have menus printed with menu items and paired wines so guests realize they have a lot more coming and don't front load their wine consumption.

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  1. i'm not sure what the occasion is for your party, but i think you need to serve at least 1/2 a glass per person. a 1-2oz pour is the minimum for properly evaluating wine in the glass, so it really is a bit on the stingy side for serving with a meal. make it clear to the service staff they are not to go around with automatic refills. if people are not really into wine, they won't want more.

    perhaps consider a prosecco or cremant d'alsace for the sparkling to save a bit of money?

    1 Reply
    1. re: hotoynoodle

      the Lucien Albrecht sparkler would work with hoto's suggestion

    2. 2oz is a fairly minimal pour for anything but a taste and spit event where you're doing perhaps dozens of wines.

      Especially since your not doing this strictly as a tasting but as an accompaniment to a full meal, 2.5 to 3oz is a better minimum.

      You may find that you actually end of wasting less wine this way because fewer people will ask for a refill. With a 2oz pour you're going to have alot of refill requests.

      1. I have been around many of these types of events where the host has the intention of "pairing" wine to food. I will throw some caution into the wind for you. I have a small event business and I meet many people that want to do the same thing that you are describing. I tell them all the same thing.

        People don't like to follow rules and there are many barriers and prejudices that you have to break down. To start, many newbie Guys don't like champagne. Think it is for sissies, don't like the bubbles, blah, blah, blah. So no matter how great that oyster appetizer sound with the that fabulous Champagne you are pouring, the Guy will ask for the red wine. "What do you mean I can't have any red wine?" And even if you have menu cards with instructions, people will gravitate towards what they feel comfortable with.

        If this is a celebration, I wouldn't recommend that you be stingy with the alcohol. The pouring of the alcohol and serving of the apps will never be efficient enough to keep people's glasses filled and happy unless you had at least 12 - 14 servers. If there is waste, there is waste. I think you would be better served by letting the liquor flow and the guests having a great time.

        Lastly, if there are only 12 wine-heads in the house, maybe your better approach is to have some "under the table" wine for them as it appears you are most intrested in appeasing them.

        2 Replies
        1. re: waffleman

          I fight, just what you write of, all of the time. I am a "hard-ass," but my serving crew knows what I expect, and the guests always find new and wonderful wines and combinations with food. Yeah, I do agree that some are less comfortable, initally, but the all learn to love it.

          Now, I do really like your last comment. We host events for up to 300, and I do just as you suggest. I give out the "secret handshake" to those, who will really appreciate the, say aged 1er Cru Bdx, etc. and the servers know in a second, who gets the "good stuff." I'm less concerned with any waste, as I am with those, "in the know," getting something that even they did not expect.

          I am probably a caterer's worst nightmare, but I have guests from 10 years ago, approach me on the street and thank me for introducing them to food and wine pairings.

          Hunt

          1. re: waffleman

            I can't agree more with what waffleman has said.

            I have held events that are specifically wine and cheese pairing events, which I am being paid specifically to design and teach the participants about pairing, and even then there are the people that "only drink red wine", or "don't like bubbly". It's rather frustrating, and a complete waste of energy and money.

            With 100 guests, just let them drink what they want, many people will follow your guidelines, but many will not, and it's a headache.

          2. In one word - yes. I do similar in many dinners that I host. I also instruct the wait-staff to serve each wine, in order. Even if guests are "red wine only" drinkers, (or white wine drinkers, only), I was want each to sample my pairings. I also encourage the guests, and the servers, to make sure that each guest has several wines at any time, so they can sample other choices with the dish and make up their own mind. It is disappointing, when I have done matches that I feel are 100%, usually after extensive tastings of the dishes and the wines, when a server pours a later wine, in lieu of the specified one. In "addition to," is OK, but not "in lieu of."

            I also instruct the servers on the amount of wine that I want poured. This is more for the appreciation of the wines, than for the economy of the volume. I hate to have a glass of fine red "topped" to the rim!

            I think that the printed menu is a grand idea, and, as you state, your guest will know that more is coming - just be patient.

            Good luck,
            Hunt

            1. I find people are conscientious with trying to prevent waste. If they dont drink wine or had their full they will speak up. At least that's what I do. Sometimes it takes creativity on the guests part.

              1. Thanks all! These comments are truly appreciated. I totally agree that my friends and family deserve to have all the wine they want. I would just also be a little sad (not heartbroken, just a little sad) if at the end of the night there were $500 of wine swimming around in half finished glasses. Yes, I have bigger worries in the scheme of things, but it was one more thing to consider.

                I think that since people will have had cocktail hour before dinner (when they can drink whatever they please) we can go ahead with 3 oz pours each of a bubbly, white, and red.

                We'll keep the glasses on the tables at all times so people can switch back and forth if they really prefer to drink one or the other (and also so from the getgo guests will know there's more to come).

                Servers will pour full glasses for those who want more after the first 3 oz. Hopefully this will also keep the servers relatively sane, not refilling all the time.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Pei

                  I feel your pain. I've had half-filled (obviously the original fill was 1/4 - 1/3 of the glasses' capacity) of DRC Burg, when the dinner was over. Oh well, it happens, so I try to gauge my guests' appetites for fine wine, before I serve it.

                  Let us know how it goes.

                  Hunt

                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                    OMG. It won't be necessary with my cheap wine, but with DRC I would have made an announcement at the end of the night: do you people KNOW that most people can only ever dream of being in the same room as this wine?!?!?!?! Down it now!

                    Thanks for the heads up. If nothing else, it's nice to be mentally prepared.

                2. And psychologically, make it sound like you're doing the diners a favor by giving them the half pours....

                  Tell them that they are getting half pours so "they won't be stuck with a full glass" because they are going to get the chance to try numerous different wines. "But once you find your favorite, if you want a refill don't hesitate to ask"...

                  That way they may almost appreciate that they don't have to slog down an entire glass of a wine they're not crazy about, and they will be thinking in terms of TRYING THE NEXT WINE rather than re-filling on this one, which of course is how you want them to be thinking.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Chicago Mike

                    i disagree. the table will be pre-set with glassware, so it will be obvious that more than one wine is being served. announcements like that are just tacky, regardless of how sophisticated the group.

                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                      Something more subtle might be "Our first wine tonight..." implying there will be at least a second wine tonight.

                      1. re: Pei

                        if you have 3 glasses set, why must anything be said? when a person has 2 forks and 2 knives pre-set, they know they're not just getting soup! ;)

                        i understand and appreictae your intentions to avoid waste. rather than trying to train your guests, most of whom you admit don't know or care about wine, be very clear and up-front with the events manager and waitstaff about what you'd like to be done.

                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                          Absolutely. They'll be the ones doing all the work, after all.

                    2. re: Chicago Mike

                      I don't think that's tacky (at least it wouldn't be in a smaller group...I'm not sure how it would sound on a PA system !) I'm a big believer in giving people information, it helps them make smarter choices and makes them feel more at ease. Just because YOU know that several wine glasses at your place setting means there will be several wines, don't assume that's automatically obvious to the less sophisticated.

                    3. I've copied some of your questions so as to better direct my comments... I hope they help!

                      <-champagne to start> imo your best QPR will be Spanish Cava... but NOT Cordon Negro!
                      -white wine for the apps and fish
                      -red wine for the duck and beef

                      <BIG QUESTION: would it be acceptable/smart to ask the servers to pour very small tastes (2 oz) for all guests, with instructions to check back in and see who's ready for more and who did not have a taste for that particular wine?> That's a good idea, but 2 ounces, as mentioned earlier, is a very stingy pour. 3 would be acceptable, but you may have problems with your servers knowing how much that is. Do you plan a walk-through with them (as at many weddings?)

                      I know there will be waste, but I'm trying to minimize a lot of full glasses sitting around.

                      750mL bottle = 25 fl.oz, normal glass is 5-6 ounce, taste is 2 oz, right?

                      <I will also have menus printed with menu items and paired wines so guests realize they have a lot more coming and don't front load their wine consumption.> From experience I can tell you that not everyone will read your menu and make that assumption. I would pass the word around verbally.