If you nervous about choosing the right wine for an event but are fortunate enough to be holding your event at a reputable venue it may be as well to simply hand over the responsibility of choice to the sommelier or banqueting manager whose job it is to match the right wine with the food and the occasion. If however you want to have the fun and satisfaction of organising the wine yourself read our brief wine summary.

Classified by regions and type, wines are to be found under recognisable names such as Bordeaux, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Rhone, Loire, Alsace, Rioja, Barolo, Chablis, Chardonnay, Reisling, Muscadet, Sauterne, South African, New World, Australian, Rosé, Champagne, Sparkling Wine and Port Wine.

Choosing the right wine for your event can seem like walking through a minefield, but a good rule of thumb is dry to medium white wine goes well with fish and seafood, red wine goes better with red meats such as beef, lamb and game while either white or red can be drunk with poultry.

Sweet wine, which can be quite heavy and rich, is generally used as dessert wine to be served with pudding or cheese, although some of the more powerful cheeses can overwhelm any wine.

Try to organise a dry run of your menu with various wines to give you a better idea of what to buy.

No matter where you buy your wine from, whether it is a specialist outlet or simply a supermarket, never be afraid to ask questions. A good wine merchant should be happy to answer all your queries and certainly not try to push only expensive vintages so if you feel uncomfortable go elsewhere.

To help their customers many wine outlets have now devised classification systems, which are a great help if you don’t understand labels.

Reading a wine label can take a little bit of practice but remember don’t expect the label to reflect the quality of the contents of the bottle i.e. a colourful picturesque label may disguise undrinkable plonk! Important information on the label is what sort of wine it is, where it comes from, the style of wine or grape variety given and its age or vintage. The back label, if there is one, often contains a more detailed description of the wine than the front labels.

When purchasing your wine it is worthwhile asking which grape variety it is made from, how long it will keep, age it should be drunk, should it be chilled, would it need to be decanted, which is the best glass to serve it in and which foods will complement it most.

Many suppliers now offer a wine-tasting facility, which you should grab with both hands, to ensure that you purchase a wine you are pleased with. Bear in mind that a wine-tasting is not about drinking as much free wine as possible, but about allowing you to assess the quality of the wine in a neutral environment.

At a wine-tasting make sure you clear your palate with plain water between wines, avoid any food before and during the tasting. Avoid wearing intrusive scents and make notes as you go. When sampling a wine, test the nose by swirling it around in the glass and taking a deep sniff, it should have a pleasing aroma – first impressions are often the best. Next, take a reasonable mouthful, roll it around your mouth fully exposing it to your taste-buds and try to assess the acidity, sweetness and strength of alcohol. Above all don’t rush, the more you slow down the more you will enjoy the full sensation of each wine.

When assessing wines remember that colour also is a good indication of maturity and condition, for example a cloudy or discoloured wine may well be undrinkable.

Wine should be kept in a cool, dark dry environment with no erratic temperature changes. Bottles must be stored horizontally to ensure that the corks remain moist and fully airtight. When bottles are stored vertically the corks can dry out and shrink exposing the wine to air which inevitably causes it to go off.

Once you have chosen a wine stand the bottle upright a few hours before drinking to allow any sediment to settle.

Red wines, a few very good full-bodied white wines and vintage ports should be uncorked and allowed to breath before serving. Ask your wine merchant if you are not sure about how long to expose the wine to the air.

Withdrawing the cork on a bottle of wine should be done slowly and carefully with an easy-to-grip open spiral corkscrew, after the protective foil has been removed and the bottle-neck wiped clean. A broken or crumbled cork may be removed with the corkscrew pushed in at an angle, to give good leverage. Take great care to extract any crumbs of cork that fall into the wine.

Sparkling wine and champagne should be opened with caution and aimed well away from people and anything breakable, as the cork often has a life force of its own! Remove the foil then carefully untwist the wire before gently twisting the bottle away from you while holding onto the cork. The latter procedure is best done with the aid of a napkin or light cloth.

Many of the older red wines are best decanted to strain out sediments and deposits. To do this stand the bottle upright for several hours, allowing the sediment to settle and collect. Then carefully remove the cork and wipe round the inside and outside of the neck to clean before decanting the complete bottle with a very steady hand.

You will soon know if an opened bottle of wine has gone off as it usually smells bad and tastes vinegary. Corked wine is where the cork has been infected and contaminates the wine making it taste musty and undrinkable.

Choosing wine glasses can seem daunting but simply remember that the ideal shape is one that has a bulbous base with inwardly sloping sides. This ensures that the full bouquet of the wine is concentrated at the top of the glass giving maximum enjoyment. A long stem allows you to swirl the contents more easily and plain glass shows off the colour of the wine. Red wine is best served in rounder glasses, white in thinner glasses and sparkling in flutes to hold its fizz longer.

Finally a sound drinking order for wine is to serve the cheaper types first before moving on to the better stuff, any educated palate would not tolerate a step back in quality. Dry should be served before sweet, light wines come ahead of full-bodied and young wines should be drunk before mature and vintage.