Whether you are hosting a major event or just an intimate dinner party, the wine you serve over the course of the soiree can leave a major impression on your guests. You don't have to be a wine connoisseur, but there are a few major mistakes that you will want to avoid.
#1: You ignore the screw cap
Once upon a time cheap, a.k.a bad, wines came with a screw cap and expensive, a.k.a. good, wines came with a cork. This is no longer the rule. Many lovely wines now have screw caps, while many awful wines have corks. Cost is also no longer a metric to use when deciding on quality. Instead, use this basic rule of thumb when assessing the capping method of the wine: a screw cap is perfectly acceptable for wines that are meant to be consumed after only a short aging period (generally less than a year). On the other hand, wines that are meant to be consumed only after a lengthy aging period are best sealed by a cork. Preferably, this should be an actual cork and not the rubber stoppers some wineries use. Rubber faux corks are generally only acceptable for young wines.
#2: You don't use the right glasses
Unless the gathering is very, very casual, you will most definitely want some sort of wine glass. Stemless glasses are all the rage these days, in no small part because they are less likely to suffer an accidental tip over. Stemless is an acceptable option for a red wine that is served at room temperature, but it's not really suitable for any chilled wine, such as a rose, white, or chilled desert wine like sauterne wine. Although you can skip the specialty glasses for all but the most formal occasions, at the very least you will want to use a stemmed glass for any chilled wine. This is because stemless glasses require you to cup the glass, which warms up a chilled wine. A stem allows it to stay chilled as you drink it.
#3: You don't provide options
Many people learned to entertain following the basic rule of white for chicken and fish, red for steak. Fortunately, unless you are really into pairing you can skip these rules and simply serve what you like. Even so, it's vital to provide options. At a minimum, have a quality red and a white on hand to match the preferences of your guests. You should also have a sweeter sauterne or other dessert wine available for the dessert course, since the more robust wines don't work well with most sweets. If pairing is important to you but you aren't sure where to begin, talk to your wine merchant and get a couple of different wines that will go well with your menu.
Wine doesn't have to be hard, as long as you avoid the above mistakes.