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Wines to serve at a party

Wine bucket

Question from Kathy: What wine should I serve at a party?

In a nut shell: Keep it simple and inexpensive and…

In a clam shell: Impressing the masses (who, let’s be honest, will be happy with almost anything that’s free) means keeping it simple, tasty, plentiful and inexpensive. Nobody goes to a party expecting a wine list written by James Halliday so relax and don’t try too hard.

Stick to bottles around the $10-$15 mark. It’s totally acceptable and make sure you buy in bulk for a further discount.

If you want your guests to have a good time and not be vomiting in your hydrangeas by 10pm go for wines around the 13.5% alcohol level or less.

I’d allow for 3 glasses of wine per person knowing that some will drink double that (the ones in the hydrangeas), others will be driving and drink less or be on beers all night. And always have a few extra bottles (or cases depending on how big this shindig is) on hand because there’s no greater mood killer than running out of booze when everyone is boozy.

In regards to what wines you should buy I’d play it safe and go with widely popular drops. I love an oaky Chardonnay but most people don’t so I’d suggest steering clear of your personal favourites.

You’ll need a sparkling, a white and a red. Most people will stick with the one all night but what they start on will depend on what their go-to beverage is in addition to their mood and the weather.

For bubbles I’d go with a Prosecco from Italy or a Cava from Spain. Both are inexpensive, predictable and serious crowd pleasers. Go for Prosecco if you want something light and fruity. Go with Cava if you’re after something more like Champagne. It’s made using the same method as Champagne and is therefore dry, yeasty and biscuity, like Champagne. Both go well with nibbles too.

Stick with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio when selecting a white wine. Absolutely everyone likes Sauvignon Blanc (except me but I’d have no problem drinking it at a party if it was the only white on offer). It’s a serious crowd pleaser! Go with a young Sauv from Marlborough. But if you’re like me and want a wine with a little more oomph (but not too much or you’ll turn people off) then go with a Pinot Grigio.

In regards to the red wine, the only varieties you’re going to get below 13.5% alcohol are Pinot Noir or Beaujolais but both might break the bank. Pinot Noir is perfect because it’s soft, fruity and easy to drink but it’s also the most expensive grape variety (more on that here). To keep the masses happy I’d suggest getting a cheap white ($10) so you can get a more expensive red ($15). Beaujolais is a French wine made from the Gamay grape which is very similar to Pinot Noir but again because it’s from France you’ll probably pay a hefty tax. If your budget doesn’t accommodate a Pinot Noir or Beaujolais you’re next best bet would be a Merlot which is a little heavier than a Pinot/Beaujolais but is smooth, fruity and inexpensive.


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