Throwing a great party with unique wines that will make every guest happy can seem daunting. Guests have their preferences, but with a little knowledge and know-how, you can charm even the most discerning palates.
Typically, one 750ml bottle of wine will yield six 4-ounce glasses. At a “standup” or cocktail party, guests typically consume an average of two glasses of wine per hour. So, if you expect fifteen guests for a party, you will need thirty glasses of wine, or five bottles.
Stick to a Budget
Sticking to a budget can help the decision-making process in a big way. If you know you are going to need 5 bottles of pinot noir, and those bottles have to cost less than 25 dollars a bottle, that will help narrow your choices to a manageable size. Sharing this information to your wine shop attendant will streamline your time spent searching endlessly for the right choice.
While on the subject of Budgeting, when throwing a party, keep your finest wines & vintages to yourself. I know its hard to believe, but not everyone shares your passion and zeal for fine juice. These complex bottles are likely to go unnoticed by your guests who are paying more attention to conversation than to the wine. Save your finest bottles for your cellar, and invest in a few mid-range options instead. If you must open something really special, open one and leave in a spare bedroom or somewhere hidden for a friend or two who you know have an interest and would enjoy in a very special “secret”.
What to Serve?
Consider your guests individual tastes
If your best friend loves wines that taste like grape soda, they’re probably not going to enjoy a complex, earthy wine, meaning you don’t want a selection composed entirely of classic French wines. This rule applies to your wine-ophile guests too; if you’re throwing a party for collectors, you won’t want to serve just basic crowd-pleasers. You’ll have more freedom to choose one or two unusual varietals. Adventurous wine drinkers are sure to enjoy anything a little quirky and unexpected, like an Italian Bianco from Mount Etna. If you have both the same party, which you most likely will, consider the following options to make everyone at your party happy
Sparkling Wine FTW
It is a rare wine drinker that doesn’t enjoy a glass of sparkling at a festive holiday party. Just as rare is an oyster, cheese or appetizer that Sparkling wine didn’t absolutely flatter. Thankfully, the world of sparkling wine is SO much more than Champagne. Look for unique offerings from Spain’s Penedes region or from France’s Loire Valley.
Taste for dollar here is unmatched. Champagne is always a great way to get festive. A few bottles of Veuve never hurt anybody.
When Serving White, Consider Taste Over Varietal
There sometimes can be two camps for white wine drinkers; chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, and folks rarely enjoy both. In this case, consider the specific attributes that people like about both varietals. Chardonnay’s weighty full mouth-feel and lingering finish.
Sauvignon blanc’s bright, grassy lemon-flecked flavors and clean, mouthwatering acidity.
Now, meet in the middle!
A Few Wines that Share These Qualities:
Gavi di Gavi– Juicy & fresh, with the weight of chardonnay with the crisp acid of sauvignon blanc. A perfect choice for a crowd.
Chenin Blanc– From France’s Loire and select producers from South Africa, Chenin Blanc is a killer white wine with all the right flavors and textures. Just make sure you ask for dry when buying them from France’s Vouvray region.
We LOVE: Raats Family Chenin Blanc, $14.99
Italian Field Blends- These wines usually have some un-oaked chardonnay as the base, with other bright, crisp grapes like reisling, nascetta, and sauvignon blanc sprinkled into the blend.
we LOVE: Murgo Etna Bianco, $12.99
My biggest gripe with red wine served at parties is alcohol content. This can also be true of white wines! The difference between a 13% alcohol wine and a 14.5% can be pretty huge in how that glass of wine can affect your guests.
Consider how much alcohol is in that California cab or chard before putting it on your open bar, or buy a few reds with 13% or less. Typically, it is MUCH easier to find European red wines with these lower ABVs (alcohol by volume) than those from the new world (the Americas, Australia, New Zealand). Don’t forget, these countries have wine with lunch, so they are not so interested in getting tipsy on high alcohol wines.
A Few Reds with Lower ABVs:
Cru Beaujolais (especially from the villages of Morgon and Fleurie) are some of the most versatile wine regions for medium-bodied red wines out there that can serve as a charming wine to drink with apps or can pair with a whole array of holiday dishes.
we LOVE: Jean-Marc Burgaud Vielles Vignes Morgon, $19.99
Valpolicella- a medium bodied blend from Italy’s Verona is the entry blend to which Amarone is made. Youthfully vinified to showcase bright, berried acidity & soft tannins, they are perfect for a room of guests.
we LOVE: Allegrini Valpolicella Classico, $16.99
French Burgundy- aka Pinot Noir from Burgundy, France- Burgundy is all about crowd-pleasing earthy, floral, brambly flavors and textures, not alcohol. Not to mention people love it pretty much unanimously. boom done.
we LOVE: Closerie des Alisiers les Dames Huguettes, $18.99
Be Confident, and Enjoy Yourself!
Take a page out of the Wine retailers playbook.
Be confident in what you are “selling”.
Your guests are much more likely to try something new that they haven’t tried before if you yourself are excited and passionate about it.
Taste is paramount when selecting the best party wines so trust your palate! Party wine is all about showing others what you’re passionate about, and sharing the experience of an absolutely mouthwatering glass.