Picking the perfect wine
Have you ever fretted about what type of wine to bring to a dinner party? Or perhaps you were hosting a party and found yourself in a quandary about which wines to serve and how much to buy. If so, you are not alone! The world of wine is vast and can be intimidating to many, especially when trying to figure out what to select when hosting wine-savvy friends and colleagues.
Generally, when choosing wines to serve at a party, folks are looking for selections that are both quaffable and affordable. Thankfully, there is a world of delicious, wallet-friendly options available to today’s wine drinkers beyond mass-produced California Chardonnay and Merlot. This is an excellent time to visit your local wine merchant. They will be able to offer advice about which wines will pair best with the food you plan to serve, and you’ll get the most bang for your buck. In addition to high-end wines, your local wine shop will carry great bottles for under $15 that will be much better quality than comparably priced wines available from a big box store. Additionally, specialty wine shops will often have wines open for tasting, so you can sample before buying.
The first question for many people is how much wine to buy. One bottle of wine will fill about six glasses, and you can generally plan on guests drinking around three glasses of wine each. Regardless of the food being served, a red and a white should be available, as some guests will only drink one or the other.
Still white wines should be served chilled, but not ice-cold, and red wines should be served at a cool room temperature, around 60 degrees Fahrenheit. A useful trick for serving wines at the ideal temperature is to remove white wines from the fridge 20 minutes before serving, and to put red wines in the fridge for 20 minutes before serving.
The region in which a wine is produced has significant impact on its price. Sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France will cost more than wines produced in other parts of France or around the world. Likewise, a Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot from the Napa Valley will fetch a higher price simply because of the regions’ reputation and the high cost of real estate. To find delicious wines at a good value, look instead to burgeoning regions like South Africa, Chile, Argentina, New Zealand, Oregon and Washington state.
The bright acidity of sparkling wines makes them very food-friendly, pairing well with everything from sushi to fried chicken to birthday cake. If you’re heading to a dinner party and don’t know what type of food is being served, you can’t go wrong with a good bottle of bubbly. High quality, affordable sparkling wines are madein wine regions across the globe. Many are produced using the same traditional methods as those employed in the Champagne region and offer comparable depth of flavor at a fraction of the price.
• Pierre Delize Blac de Blancs, France, $10 - A great value sparkler from Burgundy, this wine looks like a million bucks and is extremely drinkable. Pale straw in color, it has relatively small bubbles and a lovely nose of sweet apples and fresh bread.
• White Knight Prosecco, Italy, $15 - Lemony and fresh, this classic Prosecco has crisp citrus and floral notes and a creamy finish.
• Gruet Brut, New Mexico, $17 - A fabulous example of a traditionally made American bubbly, this Chardonnay-Pinot Noir blend is aged on lees (yeast sediment) for at least 24 months, resulting in a wine with luscious, rich mouth-feel and aromas of green apple, grapefruit and brioche.
Take a break from ubiquitous California Chardonnays and look instead for interesting whites from Spain, South America and New Zealand.
• Finca Arantei Albarino, Spain, $15 Aromas of peach give way to tropical flavors with a nice mineral edge and solid acidity in this medium-bodied wine. Albarino is a lesser known grape varietal, making this wine a good conversation piece while still being delicious and quaffable.
• La Yunta Torrontes, Argentina, $10 - Torrontes grapes are grown almost exclusively in Argentina. They produce a bright fruit-forward wine with characteristic notes of stone fruit with a moderate acidity and smooth mouth-feel. This wine is made from Torrontes grapes grown in the Mendoza region and is full of white flowers with a slight hint of sweetness.
• Natura Sauvignon Blanc, Chile, $15 - Made with organic grapes, this wine boasts aromas of lemongrass, lime and peach and a crisp, balanced finish.
When selecting a red wine to serve at a cocktail party, choose wines that are a little lighter. While a spicy, intense Australian Shiraz might pair perfectly with a steak dinner, it’s not always the most appropriate choice to serve with hors d’oeuvres at a cocktail party.
• Radio Boca Tempranillo, Spain, $15 Full of juicy, ripe strawberries and spicy black currants, this wine is right at home alongside some decadent cheeses and cured meats.
• Dona Paula Malbec, Argentina, $14 - Originating in France, Malbec has found a happy home in the vineyards of Argentina. Dona Paula’s offering is violet-hued and full of roses and black plums. This wine is rich with soft tannins, without being overly heavy, and pairs well with grilled meats.
• Pellehaut Rouge, France, $10 - This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Tannat from southern France is an exceptional value. With spicy cherry aromas and a hint of cocoa, this wine is as drinkable as it is affordable.