You are having a bunch of people over for a birthday party, or maybe just a small gathering of friends to play cards. You want to serve wine, how do you choose what’s best? Do you have to have a knock out pairing?
Size of Your Gathering
Let’s start with size. Think about how many people you have coming to your gathering. Do they all drink wine? Do only half of them drink wine and the rest like beer? Or just don’t drink alcohol at all?
Tip: If you are having more than 15 people the best value is larger bottles of wine. But you will need to think about the type of gathering you are having to determine if that is a good fit (see below).
If over half of your guests enjoy wine the next question is how much do they drink when they are drinking it? Have you been to gatherings with these people before? If you know they like their wine and will have a few glasses you most certainly want to plan big.
Type of Gathering
Now let’s look at what type of gathering we are having. Let’s start with a standard. Your family is coming over for a birthday party or other family gathering. You know how many are coming and you know their likes and dislikes. If they are big drinkers and it’s a casual party, the larger bottles of wine are a money saver. You will get the most bang for your buck. If they are lighter drinkers you can go with smaller bottles. More on that in a bit.
If you are having a very formal meal and you put some time into the food, you will want to choose standard bottles. You will want to pair your wine and food. If you would like to offer wine before the dinner you can pair it with your appetizers. If you don’t have appetizers you can simply offer an easy drinking wine.
Tip: Don’t overpower your meal and your future wines with your appetizer wine for a formal party. Keep it lighter and simple. Recommendations will be below.
Casual gatherings help you choose from a wider variety of wine types, and bottle sizes. Formal dinners require more thought to pair and less options for wine types and bottle sizes.
Types of Wine Your Guests Like
This is where the most worry is and the trickiest part of choosing wines. The best thing I can offer you right off the bat is, do not buy wine you dislike for your gathering. You are purchasing this beverage. You may be left with half empty bottles if your guests don’t finish your wine. With that said, you want to be left with something you can enjoy the next day.
You will not necessarily know what types of wine your guests will like. You might know also. However, they will all likely fall heavily into one type of wine category over another.
Keep it simple! You want to choose easy drinking wines people will enjoy regardless of the food you put on your table. You want to offer a white, a red and maybe a sweet option. If you know only a few guests like sweet wine, then you want to go with easy drinking whites and a red.
Tip: What’s that mean? That means you want to choose something simple in reds like a cabernet sauvignon. In whites, something like an unoaked chardonnay. If you know your drinkers don’t like big reds, you could go with something like a pinot noir in red. In whites, a dry riesling.
Don’t get carried away in wine thought about informal gatherings. Remember people are picking at foods in a buffet style and moving around to socialize. They will not be sitting down to savor the food and wine and compare them together, so don’t buy wine meant for that.
For a formal gathering where people are there to savor, you want to choose the best smaller bottles of wine to complement each segment of your meal. You could easily have 4 different types of wine for the meal. Depending on the party size you may need more than one bottle of each type so everyone can pair and taste together. You may even need up to 6 different types and bottles for a party of 10 or so. You will want to choose the right red, the right white, sweet or other wine to match your food. Need some simple tips to pair? Check out Gina’s tips here.
What to do about other events like holidays?
Each holiday has a bunch of different foods and traditions based on your values and heritage. Keep it simple always. Do a bit of research on your recipes and what goes with the main ingredient of those meals. Don’t forget to think about sauces and side dish flavors when you are choosing the wine.
Thanksgiving is generally turkey day – keep it simple with riesling or pinot noir. Great for turkey. Look at traditional wines offered in your country of heritage. What do they like to serve for meals and wine?
Basic tips for any type of gathering
Don’t overthink your wine. Of course, if you are purposely trying to pair food with wine you want to give it a bit more thought. But for the rest of us who like to have wine at a family gathering and for a party – don’t get crazy.
Know what your guests like and how much they consume. Choose something you like and get the best value by buying larger bottles for bigger parties and bigger drinkers. Don’t choose wines that are very niche or blended in a way that need a pairing to work. You never know what your guests will be choosing from your buffet and then what wine they pour. You need something simple and easy that goes down with most food.
Enjoy your wine and your party – after all, that’s the point.
Kate’s Favorite Larger Informal Family Gatherings with Moderate Wine Lovers to Intense Wine Lovers
Large Bottle of Robert Mondavi Semi-Oaked Chardonnay
Large Bottle of Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon
Smaller Bottle Options – Bogle Chardonnay, Sterling Chardonnay, Bixby Creek Red Blend