Finding the perfect bottle of wine for a dinner party is always difficult. Do you opt for red over white and risk upsetting your guests? Should you serve up different wines with every course? What temperature should you serve your wines? The questions are endless, unless you have an expert at hand…

With the season of hosting coming up, we decided to delve deeper into the world of wine and enlisted the help of BBC Saturday Kitchen’s wine expert and Rioja lover, Jane Parkinson, to find out more. One of the UK’s best known faces on wine, Jane shares her expertise with millions every year, offering tips and tricks for all things wine, from what to serve to the bottle perfect for gifting. 

Plus, this October we’ve teamed up with Rioja Wine UK to celebrate Rioja Wine Month. Enter our competition here to be in with the chance of winning a ticket to an exclusive wine tasting with Jane Parkinson. 50 lucky Handbook readers can look forward to learning more about Spain’s finest wine producing region and receive a limited-edition wine tasting pack with an array of Rioja wines. 

Read on to hear Jane’s top tips in wine…

Firstly, tell us a little bit about where your journey with wine begins.

Well, I needed to live in France as part of my degree, and I needed to do research while I was there. As a grumpy teenager I didn’t know what subject to choose for my research topic and someone suggested wine. It was truly life-changing advice!

You’ve become one of the UK’s best known faces on wine. How did you become so well versed in this field?

Ahh, thanks. If you say so! Well, knowledge has been built up over the years through a combination of tasting a lot of wine (your heart bleeds, I know), studying for wine exams, and perhaps the most important of all – visiting wine regions, because there is NO better way of appreciating what’s in your glass than to stand on the soil where the wine’s journey all began and meet the people behind it face-to-face.

For you, what makes Rioja such a special wine region?

Well, it’s just one of those places that, as soon as you step off the plane, your shoulders relax and you just breathe it all in.

From ancient hilltop towns to crazy modern architecture, great tapas bars to Michelin-starred restaurants, boutique hotels to converted castles, notwithstanding the epic wine and the incredible weather. I mean, what’s not to love about all that combined?!

When it comes to finding the perfect red, do you have a favourite wine from the region?

Too hard! There are so many incredible producers it changes all the time, from Muga to Lanzaga, La Rioja Alta to López de Heredia, Remulleri to Roda, we’re all spoilt for choice.

Rioja is more known for its rich reds, but they offer some brilliant whites and rosados too. How would you best serve these?

Yes, the whites and rosados are Rioja’s secret weapon, you might say.

Well, the fresh and fruity whites, together with the rosados are best served straight from the fridge. Rioja’s white wines can also come in a toastier, nuttier style, and these can be served a little bit warmer, to let all that richness come out. I’m not going to give you an exact temperature because I think people can get hung up on that too much, and honestly, who is ever going to get their wine thermometer out before serving? So, for the richer whites, let’s just say 30 mins after being in the fridge, serve.

What are your top five tips for hosting the perfect dinner party?

  1. Prepare as much as you can beforehand
  2. Keep the wine flowing
  3. Time-wise, space the different courses sensibly so people get hungry not hangry
  4. Check dietary requirements in advance
  5. Have fun! If you’re having fun, the guests will be having fun.

Do you have a favourite bottle of Rioja you would bring out at a dinner party?

My favourite bottle to bring out wouldn’t be a bottle, it would be a magnum and there are plenty of great Rioja ones to be found. 

With the festive season around the corner, what’s the perfect Rioja to gift this Christmas?

A Reserva or Gran Reserva red from an older vintage. It always feels special to receive a bottle of wine that’s got some age to it, and fortunately for us in this country, older Rioja is more readily available than other older red wines.

What can The Handbook readers expect from the upcoming wine tasting event?

A sensational Spanish-themed evening, illustrated with epic flavours from Spain and not just the wine but the nibbles too.

We’ve teamed up with Rioja Wine UK to give 50 lucky readers the chance to win a ticket to an exclusive zoom tasting event with Jane Parkinson. Click here for your chance to win…

Rioja Wine Month runs throughout October. Learn more at

Created in partnership with Rioja Wine UK 

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