By Drew Olson Special to Published Jun 03, 2008 at 5:10 AM

Summer is a time of celebration. Social calendars that seemed so barren just a few weeks ago are suddenly swollen with backyard barbecues, graduation parties, family reunions, tailgate excursions and impromptu get-togethers of all kinds.

Oh, and did we mention weddings?

June is traditionally a big month for weddings, which, when you think about it, are simply summer parties in nicer clothes.

For all of planning that goes into a wedding -- invitations, reception, rehearsal dinner, rings, flowers, formal wear, photography, music -- it's easy to overlook an important element that can play a role in setting the mood for an event.

The wine.

"Toasting with wine to your new life together is a great way to celebrate a marriage," wine expert Natalie MacLean said in a recent e-mail. "So, don't let the decision be grounds for divorce.

"With so many wine regions and producers today, it's easy to find delicious bottles within any budget."

MacLean, a wine writer and accredited sommelier based in Ontario, is the author of "Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass'" and puts out an e-mail newsletter with more than 75,000 subscribers.

She offers her five tips for picking wine for weddings.

1. Calculate your quantity. The average guest consumes about one to two drinks per hour. A bottle of wine contains about four drinks and a bottle of bubbly has five.

2. Match the meal. Choose versatile wines that are food-friendly and appeal to many palates. The best choices are neither too light nor too heavy. For white wines, try Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio; for reds, Gamay, Pinot Noir or Merlot.

3. Celebrate your history. Personalize your wine choice: pick those made in the country where you (or your ancestors) were born, or perhaps where you met your partner.

4. Offer a mixed bar. Not everyone drinks wine, so offer popular spirits such as gin, rum, scotch and vodka. For non-alcoholic drinks, offer fruit punch, juice, soda or sparkling water. A signature cocktail, created for your wedding, is also a great idea.

5. Raise a glass of liquid pearls. Champagne from France isn't the only bubbly suitable for your wedding toast. Look for sparkling wines from North America, Australia, New Zealand, Spain (Cava) and Italy (Prosecco, Moscato or Spumante). They're delicious, too, and often less than half the price of Champagne.

MacLean is quick to point out that weddings aren't the only events that should be celebrated with wine. Whether it's a backyard barbecue or a more formal event, MacLean says the key to successful selection is to take a cue from food.

She has an online food-and-wine matcher at her Web site,

Here are some basics from her site:


Chardonnay: seafood with butter sauce, chicken, pasta with cream sauce, veal, turkey, ham, Emmenthal, Gruyeres, Port-Salut.

Riesling: mild cheese, clams, mussels, Asian dishes, sashimi, ham, pork, lobster Newberg, Tandoori chicken, Coquilles St Jacques.

Sauvignon Blanc: oysters, grilled or poached salmon, seafood salad, Irish stew, ham, chevre, goat cheese and strongly flavored cheeses, asparagus quiche.

Gewurztraminer: spicy dishes, Thai food, curry, smoked salmon, pork and sauerkraut, Muenster, spiced/peppered cheeses, onion tart.


Cabernet Sauvignon: duck, spicy beef, pate, rabbit, roasts, spicy poultry, cheddar, blue cheese, sausage, kidneys.

Pinot Noir: braised chicken, cold duck, rabbit, charcuterie, partridge, roasted turkey, roasted beef, lamb, veal, truffles, Gruyeres.

Merlot: braised chicken, cold duck, roasted turkey, roasted beef, lamb, veal, stew, liver, venison, meat casseroles.

Shiraz: braised chicken, chili, goose, meat stew, peppercorn steak, barbequed meat, spicy meats, garlic casserole and ratatouille.

Drew Olson Special to

Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.