In the last post, I gave some math tips on deciding how much wine to have on hand for a dinner with multiple guests. Now I want to share a little about how I use these numbers in planning dinners.
Dinner #1 – Calculating small quantities of multiple wines per course when wine supply is limited
I often host twelve-person dinners for the restaurant at the hotel, but might use several special wines of which I have only one bottle. Using the cheat sheet from last week’s post, this amounts to 2 0z. of each wine per person. Since most people are not satisfied with a 2 oz. pour per course, a creative solution is needed. Rather than pour one wine per course, I am pouring two or more. I am creating a comparison/contrast within each course based on winegrowing regions.
For the first course, I have only one bottle of Nicolas Joly Savennieres Clos de la Coulée de Serrant 2007, and a couple of bottles of Domaine Huet Vouvray Le Mont 1985. I am using these with another Savennieres to create a Loire Valley Chenin Blanc tasting. The second course includes Trimbach Riesling Clos Ste. Hune 2002, plus a Pinot Blanc and a Pinot Gris from Alsace to highlight different grape varieties grown in the region. The entree course includes three red wines from the Languedoc-Rousillon area. For the cheese course, I am using two Australian Shiraz: Henschke Mount Edelstone 2004 from Eden Valley and Giaconda Warner Vineyard 2005 from Beechworth to highlight regional differences.
Using a 2 oz. pour of each wine per course will yield four to six ounces per person per course. This is approximately equal to a standard glass of wine per course, but allows eleven wines to be tasted! The comparison/contrast is not only more fun than serving one wine per course, but solves the problem of having a limited number of bottles of special wines. Other ideas for comparison/contrast are a horizontal tasting of several wines from a single vintage, a vertical tasting of one wine from several vintages, the same grape type from different countries/regions, or different styles of wine from the same region.
Dinners #2 and #3 – Calculating quantity of wine needed when number of guests is large
For other areas in the hotel, usually I am given the menu and either the number of people attending or a target number for attendance. I need to determine how much wine to order. For a Rhone Valley menu of three courses where one wine per course will be served, I will be using 5 oz. pours. Each bottle serves five people, and I am expecting 90 people to attend. Therefore, I will need at least 18 bottles (90 pours needed divided by 5 pours per bottle) of wine to serve one glass per course to each person.
The same calculation applies to a “foodie’s table” that is being planned by the chef. While the wines will be different from the Rhone Valley dinner, no substantial difference exists in calculations of wine quantity. For this dinner 40 guests are expected. Since only three courses are being presented, 6 oz. pours will be used. This yields a need for 10 bottles (40 pours needed divided by 4 pours per bottle) of each wine.
Dinner #4 – Adding a reception and post-dinner nip!
Wine needs for a reception can be calculated using the same methods. Typically, I use a 5 oz. pour, and estimate 1 glass of wine per person for an hour-long reception. With a group of 20 people, this requires four bottles of wine. If serving both a white and red wine for the reception, I might pad the order by having three bottles of each wine on hand to account for a possible preference of one wine over the other.
For a dessert wine served as a nip at the end of the evening, not more than 1 oz. of wine as a small taste is necessary. Many of these wines are bottled in 375 ml bottles (half the size of a “normal” bottle). Fortunately, using half the size of a normal pour means the same method can be used to estimate the quantity needed.
When you know the number of people attending the event, and the pour size that you want to use, you can do the same conversion in planning any dinner. Depending upon the purpose of the dinner, and how much your friends enjoy wine, the result number can be adjusted up or down (usually up, to account for refills).
Unfortunately, not every situation can be discussed in a single post. However, I hope this is enough information to make dinner planning more a game to be enjoyed rather than a problem to be avoided. If you have additional suggestions or questions, I hope you will share them!