One of the questions I get most often during December is “what wine should I buy for my party?” but with the added request that the wine be inexpensive.
There is no one-wine-fits-every-party answer, but I do have a few tips to make your party planning easier, while keeping your budget in mind.
If it’s a large party, the wine must be a crowd-pleaser. This is the most important point and possibly the most ignored. The wine you serve needs to be widely popular and familiar to most people. This is not the time to champion your favorite varietal. Readers are aware of my love for Rieslings and know it is an an ideal choice for pairing with food. But this wine is not a good option for serving at a large party because most guests will avoid it — no matter how exceptional the brand or enthusiastic the hostess — simply because they are unfamiliar with this grape. Instead, pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc are good white choices. They both offer refreshing acidity excellent for a range of food pairing. For red wine, merlot and pinot noir are familiar and the tannic structure is generally more restrained than a full-bodied high alcohol cabernet sauvignon. Because these grape varietals are popular among consumers there will be many saving opportunities with retailers.
Take an objective look at your guest list before making your choice. This is an important aspect for small gatherings. Does the guest list include only fellow wine lovers or is it a mix of your friend who is vegan and only drinks vegan wine, the couple you’ve never seen drink anything other than beer, even that friend who only drinks chardonnay no matter the occasion? Plan your beverages accordingly to save your budget.
Keep it simple. During the holidays many of us have a tendency to over think our celebration and offer too many options ranging from sparkling punch, cocktails, wine, beer and now trending sake. Offering one red wine, one white wine and one beer option along with nonalcoholic beverages will make it much easier to stick to a budget, set-up and clean up.
Your wine retailer should be your next best friend. With thousands of wine choices lining retail stores it’s reassuring to have an expert on hand to help. Take the time to find a staff member, explain the number of people, style and most importantly your budget and let them guide you. There are exceptional savings in most stores during the holidays and your retailer can direct you in finding these bottles based on your party needs and their stock.