Ultimate Pairing Guide: Chapter 7

Chapter 7: Birthdays and Special Occasion Wines/Conclusion

Birthdays and Special Occasion Wines

There’s never a wrong occasion to drink wine. Celebrating life’s fullest moments, though, is almost always made better with a glass of wine uncorked for the occasion.

Perhaps it’s a surprise birthday bash, an anniversary, a dinner party or a hard-earned promotion. It could be a housewarming or retirement gift. Maybe you’re just looking to toast the end of a pretty great week. Whatever the reason, a good wine commemorates the occasion and brings loved ones closer together. Raise your glass to these great wine choices for your next special celebration — and make sure to provide plenty of glasses.

Best Types of Wine for Every Special Occasion

The best celebratory wines match the atmosphere, represent its honoree and — of course — taste delicious.

Need a little help pairing occasions with wine? We’ve got your back. Below, you’ll find a list of life’s most savorable moments, complete with what wine to pick for nearly any celebratory occasion, plus how to go about best serving it. Happy celebrating!

1. Graduations

You may have just spent a small fortune nabbing that degree. But you don’t have to spend a fortune for delicious, high-quality wines everyone at the party will enjoy.

Opt for white or rosé wines at this kind of celebration. Graduation season nearly always occurs during late spring and early summer. That means warmer weather and the likelihood of an outdoor graduation party, complete with an array of food options to satisfy any guest.

Graduations: A Chilean Sauvignon Blanc is a great bang for your buck and will play nice with almost any kind of party fare.

Chilean Sauvignon Blanc is a great bang for your buck and will play nice with almost any kind of party fare. Go the extra mile by finding a good dessert wine to go with the graduation cake, like this deep, chocolatey port from Montevina Terra D’oro.

2. Mother’s Day

Show your mom how much she’s loved with a bottle of wine.

If you’re having a celebratory brunch, find a wine meant for easy sipping. You can’t go wrong with sparkling wine, which you can use to mix mimosas, bellinis and many other brunch-friendly cocktails.

If your mom is the adventurous type, wow her with a bottle of vintage Spanish cava. This cousin to champagne comes in three varieties, with Reserva and Grand Reserva Cava the most complex and inspired.

3. Father’s Day

Sure, beer may be the proverbial drink associated with dads. Yet one out of every 10 men actually prefers wine over beer, creating the perfect opportunity for you to impress and delight your old man.

Aged cabernet francs dance deliciously between sweet vanilla and malty tobacco notes. Their rich palate also holds up well to many charred and grilled meats for your celebratory Father’s day barbecue — or whatever meal dad picks for his special day.

4. Picnics

Outdoor picnics mean cold-cut sandwiches, veggie platters, salty chips and potato salads — approachable foods that hold up well in the outdoor heat. The relaxed nature of a picnic calls for an equally unpretentious wine that can be sipped between frisbee tosses or while lounging in the grass.

Bright, refreshing gamay and Beaujolais work great here. These lighter red wines are fruit-forward and ultra-refreshing, perfect when you next picnic fancy strikes, celebrating good weather, good friends or just an open afternoon at your favorite park.

5. Barbecues or Cookouts

Bigger and redder is better when it comes to barbecue feasts — with a few exceptions.

Barbecues or Cookouts: Californian Cabernet Sauvignon brings bold tannins and punctuating acidity that is the go-to for fattier barbecue meats, like pork ribs drizzled in tangy red sauce.

Californian Cabernet Sauvignon brings bold tannins and punctuating acidity that is the go-to for fattier barbecue meats, like pork ribs drizzled in tangy red sauce. For lighter barbecue fare, such grilled chicken breasts or meat-and-veggie skewers, look for a medium-bodied but high acidity wine, like Sangiovese.

Each of these wine selections elevates your backyard cookout celebration, plus are great ways to expand your friends and family’s palates beyond usual backyard drinks. They’ll help make your next cookout a memorable one.

6. Engagement

Nothing provides a better toast at an engagement party than Champagne. This drink’s bright, fragrant bubbles are crowd and palate-pleasers, plus the go-to beverage to signify a momentous occasion.

Many people are surprised by the sheer diversity of Champagne on today’s market. You will often see words like “brut,” “cuvee” and “gran reserva” stamped onto Champagne labels. But what do these words really mean — and are they important when picking a celebratory bottle?

  • Brut is a French-derived description for unsweetened or dry Champagnes
  • Cuvee is another French wine term. It indicates a Champagne bottle is a specialty “house” mix of grape varietals unique to the producer, and that the Champagne itself was created using the one-press method
  • Gran reserva, or grand reserve, reveals wine from a particularly high-quality year that’s also been aged

Remember, it’s most important to pick a Champagne type you think drinkers will enjoy. For celebrations like engagement parties, that will likely mean an off-dry or semi-sweet Champagne. Whether that bottle is a cuvee or gran reserva is between you, your curiosity and your budget.

7. Retirement Gifts

Wine makes an exceptional gift to honor your spouse, your best friend, your boss — really whomever — as they transition from their working life into retirement.

Retirement Gifts: Pick a bottle whose spirit signifies the time and commitment the individual invested in their career.

Pick a bottle whose spirit signifies the time and commitment the individual invested in their career. For example, red wines aged for five, ten, even twenty years will perfectly commemorate the honoree’s own professional timeline or years spent in a role. Red wines that age exceptionally well include varietals like NebbioloSyrah and Spanish Tempranillos, especially those from the acclaimed Rioja region. Just make sure aged wines have been stored properly before gifting. That means in a cool, dark and low-humidity room mimicking a proper wine cellar.

8. Dinner Parties

Dinner parties are a celebration, too! These gatherings round up friends, family and colleagues over something that brings everyone together — good food. Throw a few great bottles of celebratory wine atop the special feast, and all guests are in for a treat.

Consider these food and wine pairing tips for your next dinner party:

  • Meat-based dishes: When serving red meat dishes, stick with heavy, full-bodied red wines like a cabernet sauvignon, malbec or French red Bordeaux. Leaner white meats, by comparison, go better with an earthier sauvignon blanc or pinot gris.
  • Grain-based dishes: Grain-based dishes like risottos and rice pilafs go great with a full-bodied chardonnay. Similarly, pasta with red sauce is a match made in heaven for the aromatic, high-acidity Italian Barbera.
  • Vegan or vegetarian dishes: Sauvignon blanc plays well with the unique umami profiles of most vegetables. This white wine varietal is also one of the few that goes with asparagus and artichokes, the banes of wine pairing.

9. Housewarmings

Welcoming a new neighbor? Toasting your best friend in their new condo? A celebratory bottle of wine does just the trick, showing your excitement for this new chapter in another’s life.

For this kind of special occasion, select a bottle of wine that’s versatile enough to be enjoyed on its own or eaten with a meal. Such chameleon varietals include the ever-silky staple pinot noir, the fruity yet spicy grenache or — for white wine lovers — a dynamic, off-dry Mosel Riesling.

10. Date Nights

Few things set that romantic tone quite like sharing a bottle of wine. Harness your inner Romeo or Juliet by selecting a special bottle for you and your date, with a meal you’ve prepared or at that new restaurant you’ve been scoping out.

For date nights, opt for a wine varietal that is both elegant and offbeat. This combo will help make your date feel intimate yet more special, with the wine enhancing your meal and overall romantic experience.

Date Nights: We like French Chablis for couples who prefer white wines, and an elegant Mourvedre for those on team red.

We like French Chablis for couples who prefer white wines, and an elegant Mourvedre for those on team red.

11. Tailgating

Sports games, festivals, outdoor concerts and more often involve tailgating beforehand. These are fun, atmospheric events where wine and fun should be plenty — and you shouldn’t have to spend a fortune to have either.

Given tailgating takes place outdoors, stick with lighter-bodied wines with refreshing palates. You can even consider a variety of white and rosé wines meant to be served chilled. Some of our favorite rosés to drink on hot days are pinot noir, cinsaut and syrah-based, lending depth and flavor to each glass without going overboard. Moscato d’Asti also makes a delightful white wine to drink during special outdoor events, low in alcohol but zippy and sweet.

12. Promotions or New Jobs

What better way to celebrate the opening of a new career door than by opening a celebratory bottle of wine?

New jobs call for wine both lively and energizing — just like the rush of landing that dream position. A Gewurztraminer does the trick, with its ginger-citrus aromas and striking fresh pineapple tang a perfect representation of an exciting new career opportunity.

Likewise, a promotion should be toasted with bold, flavorful old world cabernet sauvignon, perhaps from the varietal’s homeland of Bordeaux. Old world cabs lean heavily on their savory, earthy notes, though you’ll still experience those tongue-tickling plum and stewed berried flavors signature of a good cabernet sauvignon.

13. Pregaming

Pregaming is the celebration before a celebration. Some of the best times shared with friends happen in the comfort of each other’s homes, sipping a few drinks before exiting for a night on the town.

Pregaming takes a bit of balancing, though. It calls for flavorful, crowd-pleasing drinks but should stay on the lower-alcohol side — especially if there’s a long night in store.

Wine varietals like or Muscadets, German Rieslings and Moscato d’Asti all have ABVs below 10%, making them savvy selections for those celebratory pregaming drinks.

14. Wedding Rehearsals, Receptions

Can you hear the wedding bells? We sure can — especially after toasting the bride and groom with any number of celebratory wines fit for the occasion.

The events leading up to a wedding call for wine pairings that are equally festive, warm and romantic. A juicy Beaujolais served with a wedding rehearsal dinner makes a pleasing celebratory statement, as do other gamay-based blends like gamay-noir or a gamay-cabernet sauvignon.

 Wedding Rehearsals, Receptions: Go for a classic Champagne toast during dinner to commemorate the big day.

Like the bride and groom themselves, wedding receptions and wine are also a match made in heaven. Go for a classic Champagne toast during dinner to commemorate the big day. Or, for a creative twist, consider sparkling rosé to help make the wedding’s entire atmosphere pop.

15. Moving in Together

Celebrate the excitement of moving in with a new friend or partner with an equally exciting, dynamic wine.

Think off-the-beaten-path for this one. That move-in day rush only happens once, so make the most of it by sharing a new red or white wine varietal neither of you has tried before.

For white wines, viogniers are a medium-bodied, aromatic and nuanced choice best enjoyed on its own but in good company. If you and your roommate prefer reds, opt for one of Northern Italy’s most precious varietals, the Barolo. Its rich, ruby-red profile is an intense, tannin-centric and highly acidic choice sure to commemorate your first day in your new home.

16. Anniversaries

Anniversaries are one of the most intimate and special days of the year. Partners get to pause, unwind and come together to commemorate their relationship.

Have some fun when selecting wines for your anniversary celebration. You can pick a red or white wine that’s been aged the same number of years you’ve been together, or select a bottle whose characteristics match your relationship.

Anniversaries: Have some fun when selecting wines for your anniversary celebration. You can pick a red or white wine that's been aged the same number of years you've been together, or select a bottle whose characteristics match your relationship.

17. A Surprise Visit

There’s nothing quite like a surprise visit from a loved one. Seeing their face can instantly brighten your mood, topped with the thrill that they set time aside to travel and see you.

Such special occasions require a wine that’s just as fun, bright and light — and maybe even unexpected in flavors. Chenin blanc fits the bill. This white wine type is breezy and light-bodied but packs a serious flavor punch. Expect notes of honeysuckle, peach, nectarine, cherry blossom and more wrapped up in each sip. Surprise! You might just have a new favorite white wine.

18. Birthdays

Wine makes an excellent birthday gift, either as a solo bottle, a pair of complementary varietals or an entire case. Yet the best birthday wines reflect the recipient themselves, in taste, preference and personality.

Don’t worry if you’re not sure of the birthday gal or guy’s favorite type of wine. Chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and pinot noir are the top-grown and top-consumed wine varietals in the world. Chances are selecting one of these as a birthday wine will be a gift in itself — one the whole party can enjoy.

A Wine For Every Occasion

How to Pick Wine for a Special Occasion

Forget finding a sommelier. Select the perfect wines for different occasions by following these simple suggestions.

1. Set the Right Tone

Pick a wine whose profile in taste, body, aromas and mouthfeel seems to fit the atmosphere of your special occasion.

Throwing an upbeat party? Why not go for something light and bubbly, like a few different types of sparkling wine? Looking for a cozy date night-in with your partner? Try a rich, decadent red that’ll feel like a hug all night long. Hosting friends who are visiting from another state? Try to source local varietals from your area and their’s — then see which you like better! Pairing wine with the atmosphere like this shows thought and attention to detail, no matter the celebration.

2. Check the Weather

In general, cooler weather tends to favor richer red wines, while warm weather and zippy, lighter white wine and rosé make a good match. This wine-weather rule of thumb is especially important if your celebration takes place outside, with guests exposed directly to the climate.

Check the Weather: In general, cooler weather tends to favor richer red wines, while warm weather and zippy, lighter white wine and rosé make a good match.

Rules are made to be broken, though! There are an exciting array of red wines that play well with hot weather, just as there are white wines perfect for those cool winter nights.

3. Pair With Food

Don’t stress over learning how to pair wine with food. Trust your judgment! Richer, heavier meals — like pasta, risotto, curries, stews and red meats — enjoy equally heavy, robust wines that can keep pace with their flavors. Likewise, lighter fare — charcuterie, bruschetta, salads, cold sandwiches and general finger foods — like a light, bright wine. It’s really that simple.

4. Consider the Recipient

What better way to show your care and appreciation for someone than by gifting a bottle of their all-time favorite wine?

This is especially great for birthday wines but works well for plenty of other social situations and special gatherings. Younger drinkers, say at a graduation party, may prefer lighter, sweeter wines, while more experienced wine drinkers will welcome a more complex bottle. Even gifting the host of a party their favorite type of wine scores huge points. Try it — we guarantee you’ll keep making their guest list!

5. Have Fun

There’s a world of wine just waiting to be discovered. Be curious! Try out the same varietal from different countries, then note their differing tastes, textures and smells. Or deep-dive into a wine-growing region to get to know what the hype’s about. Whatever makes enjoying a bottle of wine a special occasion in itself is the real celebration.

Picking and Serving Celebratory Wine

Impress your party and uncork your wine skills with these tips on how to best serve your celebratory wine.

1. Pick the Right Serving Glass

At first, serving glasses can be confusing. Why are some so wide and others so tall and thin? Why do these have long stems — but these over here have no stems at all? Does any of this even matter?

The shape of a glass will determine what smells and aromas reach our nose, which in turn alters the taste of the wine.

The short answer? Yes, it does. The shape of a glass will determine what smells and aromas reach our nose, which in turn alters the taste of the wine. The wrong vehicle will either block or overwhelm these all-important olfactory notes from doing their job. You and your guests will be left with a beverage not living up to its true potential. Though don’t worry, no one will call the serving glass police on you.

Check out our expert’s guide to wine serving glasses for an in-depth look at which wines go with which glass types.

2. Doublecheck Decanting

Decanting is when you open a bottle of wine ahead of time and pour it into a second serving vehicle, known as a decanter.

Certain types of wines — usually red — require decanting a few hours before drinking to unleash their full flavors and aromas. Decanting quite literally “lets the wine breathe,” creating a chemical reaction within the liquid that results in a superior wine-tasting experience.

3. Take the Temperature

The temperature of the wine, that is! Red wines should generally be served at room temperature, around 62 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. The majority of white wines are served a bit cooler, between 49 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

Proper-temperature wines ensure a beverage looks and tastes as it should, plus preserves the wine in optimal conditions before it is even opened.

4. Set up the Serving Space

Find a serving spot where your wines will be on full display, or where it’ll be easiest for you to grab and serve at your leisure. But don’t stress too much about it. You’re here to celebrate with friends and family. Good wine is just the cherry on top.

Select Wines for Any Special Occasion

Marketview Liquor’s extensive wine inventory means you get the wine you need for any special event, planned or surprise.

Wines for any Special Occasion from Marketview Liquor. Shop Now.

Browse our online wine catalog, then place your order to get wine delivered right to your door!