Thursday, July 22, 2010

Good Party Wines

Having a party can be a wonderful yet stressful experience.  Whether the party is large or small there's a lot of preparation that goes into making it successful.  Choosing the right wine is a key piece to the success and enjoyment of any shindig.  I have a few ideas about party wine selection that may take some of the angst out of the decision making process and simultaneously give you the satisfaction of providing your guests with quality wine selections. 

When it comes to selecting wines for a party, I have found that many people rely on overly sweet and mass produced wines of lower quality.  The justification is simple: cost!  Party givers usually have a budget of some sort when contemplating wine purchases.  However, one does not have to sacrifice quality even on a tight budget.  With a little exploration, wines can be found that will bring enjoyment to your guests while they mingle, talk and eat.  The wines should also compliment a wide range of foods usually offered at a party. Let's get started.

The Plan
  • It's critical to have an assortment of reds, whites and possibly roses on hand. In the world of wine there are always those who "only like white" or "only like reds."  Having both on hand is important to give your guests adequate choice.  
  • Party wines need to be familiar, at least for the most part.  If you stock up on dry Riesling your guests may balk at drinking something they are unfamiliar with.  You don't want people experimenting with wine when you actually want them relaxed and talking. However, as you will see, offering new versions of old favorites can be a winner.  Also, slipping in new and accessible wines can add an exciting dimension for your guests.
  •  Since you will be buying in bulk, attempt to sample the wines you have chosen before hand.  Buy a few bottles well in advance of the party to make sure the wine is what you are comfortable with and corresponds to what you know of your guests' tastes.  Knowing the level of wine sophistication of party goers can help immensely in the planning process.  
The Wine

 Many parties I have been to offer cheap Californian or Australian wines.  Although drinkable, they do not represent the quality one can achieve at comparable prices.  Inexpensive American Merlots, Cabs and  Chardonnays are often dull, weak or too sweet to impress.  Another favorite, Pinot Grigio, is usually too thin and characterless to show well.

My advice is to look at a wider range of wines that are inexpensive and offer great variety and top notch taste.  All of the wines I list below can be purchased between $10 and $15.  


Pinot Grigio - Often the butt of jokes, Pinot Grigio can be tasteless and lackluster.  However, there are Pinot Grigios that stand out.  When purchasing, look or ask for Pinots that come from the Friuli area of Italy.   
Ruffino Orvieto Classico -This is a very charming and tasteful wine that is inexpensive but enjoyable with nice fruit for your guests to ponder.
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc -SBs are a great crowd pleaser.  This wine is refreshing, crisp and especially good for summer parties. I suggest you stay away from some of the over the top labels that exhibit too much gooseberry and grapefruit . 
Muscadet - From the Loire Valley in France, Muscadet is a dry, pleasant, juicy but sometimes tart wine with good body and complexity.  It will impress your guests. 
Vinho Verde - Especially good for party's in warmer weather, the Portuguese Vinho Verde possesses great minerality, crispness, refreshing fruit and is mildly effervescent.  


Portuguese Reds - These wines are becoming available in greater quantities than every before.  The reds are rich, earthy, and dry.  Guests will be intrigued and pleased by the experience.  Portuguese reds are still inexpensive.  I highly recommend them.  Look for reds from the Douro Valley.
Pinot Noir - Granted, really good Pinot Noir is costly.  But there are inexpensive labels available that are fruity and nicely acidic that can please any crowd.  PNs are lighter bodied, more delicate reds that are exceptional.  I am particular to Oregon State but good, inexpensive California Pinot Noirs are there for the picking. 
Cabernet Sauvignon - Great Cabs are being grown in Latin America. Chile and Argentina have produced exceptional vintages.  The Chilean Cabs are spicy and herbal and even express hints of chocolate.  Guests will be intrigued. 
Beaujolais-Village - This French wine is an easy but very enjoyable, soft red.  White wine drinkers may find the Beaujolais-Village quite enjoyable.  Its addition to the party menu will give guests greater choice and add to their experience.  Do not mistake Beaujolais-Village with Beaujolais Nouveau.
Spanish Rioja - Wines from the Rioja region in Spain are up and coming.  They are based on two major grapes, Tempranillo and Granacha with most wines being blends of the two.  Rioja is noted for the use of oak in its wines.  These are earthy and spicy.  Your guests might notice the French influence and be intrigued. 

There are numerous wines you can chose that do not sacrifice taste but are easy on the pocket book.  Wine can be an integral and enjoyable aspect to any party or gathering.  By taking a little time to focus on the quality of wine you purchase, your guests can have a memorable experience.  You don't have to break the bank to offer exceptional wine to your friends and associates.   You might also find tasting the wine before hand an enriching experience in itself.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments. 

Good luck!

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