When you’re a wine collector throwing a party, the pressure is high; your friends often expect you to pull the best wines out of your cellar, especially if your guests are wine enthusiasts themselves. This is why collectors often make the mistake of over-thinking party wines. If you spend your free time researching and talking about the finest wine in the world, it’s tough to step back and choose a handful of simple crowd-pleasers. However, that doesn’t mean the wine you serve has to be predictable or low in quality either. The best wine for a party is one that everyone can appreciate, from casual drinkers to serious enthusiasts.
To find the perfect party wine, step into your guests’ shoes. If your guests read the latest Bordeaux en primeur reviews for fun, then you might pull out all the stops and serve them a young bottle of 2005 Château Montrose. If, on the other hand, your guests don’t care for wine as much as you do, or everyone’s views on wine are mixed, then you should choose wines that are approachable but still have captivating or unique qualities. In this guide, you’ll find some useful ideas on which wines to serve at your next event—wines that will spark a conversation.
Plan Your Expenses
The key to a successful party is less about showing off rare wines, and more about letting your guests enjoy themselves. No matter which type of wine you serve, it’s important to have enough to go around so that every guest has the chance to try at least a glass or two from each bottle. Generally, you should buy half a standard bottle of wine per drinking guest for every two hours planned for your party. For example, if you know that your party is going to last about four hours, and you’ve invited four guests, you need to buy at least four bottles of wine for the occasion.
Choosing a Wine Based on Your Plan
Once you know how much wine you need to buy, consider the wine’s price point per bottle as well as its quality to price ratio. Many hosts typically choose wines that cost $60 or less per bottle, especially if they have a lot of guests. You can easily find high-quality and collectible bottles within this price range, particularly from New World winegrowing regions. For example, Clarendon Hills from the South Australia region has more affordable offerings outside of its storied Astralis vineyard. Selecting a lesser-known wine from a producer with a reputation for quality also makes it more likely that these will increase in value as they age, meaning they’re worth keeping around for more than just parties. Buying these wines is a great way to maximize your budget without sacrificing quality.
If you’re throwing a smaller party with fewer guests, consider bumping up your target price per bottle. Since you’ll have to buy fewer bottles, you can splurge on just two or three rare wines that cost anywhere between $60 to $300, or more. Some wines really are worth the higher price and at this budget, you can find some of the best wine for a party, including fine Champagne, rare Brunello di Montacino, and even top-rated Bordeaux.
Making the Most of Your Budget
One way to maximize your party budget is to invest in wine by the case in advance. This has two benefits. First, it’s generally more cost-effective than buying individual bottles. Second, having a full case in storage means you’re less likely to run out of wine in the middle of the party. Many wine enthusiasts keep a few cases of approachable, crowd-pleasing wine on hand for just such occasions. Having a wide variety of wines, from bold to delicate reds and full-bodied to light-bodied whites, also makes it easier to cater to everyone’s tastes. If a few of your guests aren’t that fond of Chardonnay, you could quickly pop down to the cellar and grab a couple bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon instead.
Another way to make the most of your budget is to splurge on just two or three special bottles as an aperitif or for dessert and spend less on the mid-party table wine. For example, you might spend around $20 to $30 per bottle on a decent table wine for dinner, but then spend the bulk of your remaining budget on two bottles of 2002 Moët & Chandon Dom Pérignon to cap the night off in a memorable way.
The Best Wine for a Party: White Wines
There’s a reason why sparkling white wine, specifically fine Champagne, is nearly always a safe bet for a party. You can find high-quality vintages within a reasonable price range and even the most casual of wine drinkers are familiar with Champagne. However, bottles from some of the most renowned houses may not always fit the budget for a large party. This is why it’s best to invest in full cases of Champagne or purchase magnums, which often cost less per milliliter than individual 750 ml bottles. As an added bonus, magnums look especially festive and will impress just about any guest, from collectors to casual fans of wine. You could also buy non-vintage bottles for the party, as these are meant to be drunk young.
Here are just a few of the best Champagne options for parties:
Consider looking outside of Champagne as well; producers in Italy and Napa Valley also craft high-quality sparkling wines that would be welcome at any party.
Beyond Champagne, the broader world of white wine contains some of the best wine for a party because it’s typically lighter-bodied than many reds and pairs well with a greater range of foods, especially the sorts of snacks you’d find at casual gatherings. Consider some of these still white wines for your next party:
Look for wines that have crisp, fruit-forward flavors. These flavors pair well with party snacks like cheese, chips, and creamy dips while keeping your guests’ palates from becoming fatigued. Or, if you wish to serve a special wine at the very end of the night, choose something sweet and bold, like aged Sauternes.
The Best Red Wines to Serve at a Party
White wines and sparkling wines are a safe choice for most parties, but you should always have at least one red wine option for guests, particularly if you plan on serving wine with dinner. Heartier meals call for a bolder, richer wine, and many fine red wines fit the bill. Generally, New World red wines are ideal for parties because many of them are fruit-forward crowd-pleasers. There are exceptions to this, of course, but casual wine drinkers often prefer the taste of a bold, fruit-forward red than a nuanced or earthy one. However, if your party guests are wine enthusiasts, the opposite may be true; they may prefer a light-bodied, subtle red variety from the Old World.
If you want to serve red wine at a party, diversity is important. You should have one bold and fruity style alongside a light and herbaceous option (unless you already know which your guests prefer). Even if your guests have never tried an earthy Châteauneuf-du-Pape from the Rhône, they might find they really enjoy it after being given a glass. A good host provides options.
Below, you’ll find the best wine for a party ranging from light to bold and everything in-between. If you’re looking for a bold red, consider wines from California, Australia, or one of the “super Tuscans” listed below. For a lighter wine, look to Burgundy.
The Best New World Party Wines
The Best Old World Party Wines
This list is not comprehensive, and there are many more red wines that are ideal for parties. Simply use this as a loose guideline next time you’re in the market for a high-quality party wine.
Think Beyond the Party
Wine enthusiasts should consider building a collection of go-to party wines, even if they rarely entertain. There’s something satisfying about looking through your collection to find that perfect bottle to impress relatives you haven’t seen in ages or keeping a rare bottle just for your friends who are in the know. It’s also wise to have a few bottles around that cater to specific dietary needs and preferences. For instance, guests who appreciate organic foods will likely enjoy biodynamically farmed wines. A thoughtfully chosen selection will make every guest feel at home.
While you should look for the best wine for a party based on what your guests enjoy, it’s even better if the wine serves double duty. The perfect party wines are ones that you can either use to impress guests or hold aside for your personal investments. Successful wine collections contain a mix of investment-only wines that collectors never drink themselves as well as a handful of bottles that are valuable and rare but also approachable enough to open at a party. Having wines in your collection that you can drink now also helps to protect your more valuable bottles, as you won’t be tempted to open them prematurely.
The best party wine is any wine that shows your guests why you’re so passionate about this craft. A good Champagne or a California cult wine is fun to drink, but it also has a rich history that’s worth sharing.
Whether you are starting your high-end wine collection or adding to an established portfolio, Vinfolio is your partner in buying, selling, and professional storage. Contact us today to get access to the world’s finest wine.