Birthdays, celebrations, special events, parties, even the ‘C word’ (it’s okay, I didn’t say it)… there are so many occasions to uncork a bottle or two. But before you can begin to pour, you have to choose your poison – an onerous task if you are venturing into unknown territory.
Whether your party is a grand occasion with buffet, an intimate dinner for two, a wine and cheese evening with friends or a rowdy knees-up in scary costumes, the wine is the key element. Impress your guests by choosing the right wine, crucial for a successful soiree. Time spent in inspection and selection is better than leaving your guests tasting sour grapes.
Shopping for wine
Shopping in a supermarket will give you access to shelves full of bottles, but this isn’t always helpful if you have no clear idea of what you’re after. Your local wine merchant can advise you about the best wines for parties. They obviously know their wine, so their opinion is certainly valid, and they’ll often have lesser known varieties/producers in stock. As long as you are sure they’re not sneakily pushing some slow-moving stock, they’re a great place to go to for help.
Red or white?
Full-bodied red wines such as Bordeaux or Cabernet work equally well at your little cheese and wine party or for a four-course fancy dinner. According to wine etiquette, red wine accompanies meat and white goes with fish but rules are for breaking, especially at parties. White wine is fresher and lighter and well suitable for party time, although some whites have quite a high alcohol content. Sauvignon Blanc, Chablis and Riesling are good light party-mood wines. Of course, to solve the red-white dilemma, you can go for rosé, often a satisfactory solution, but add variety and impress your guests by remembering to cater for those who only ever drink red, or drink exclusively white.
To add class and glamour to a party champagne is a must! To make the occasion even more special, consider rosé champagne which adds that extra touch of chic. The only drawback here is cost, but there are solutions. If your budget does not run to champagne, there are other ways to impress your guests with bubbles. Sparkling wines perform nicely and they cost a lot less. Consider Prosecco (great quality Italian bubbles), or Portuguese sparkling rosé (a classic). There are even some gorgeous sparkling reds on the market.
Mentioning the cost of champagne brings us to the quality of wine in general. High price does not always mean good. San Giovese, Valpolicella and Barbera are Italian red wines that deliver good quality at moderate prices. Riesling, Chardonnay, and my own favourite Viognier are white wines that present a good quality/price ratio and sparkling Prosecco is the best buy when it comes to excellent quality at affordable prices. Personal preference and budget permitting, you can even invest in famous names like Barolo or Chateauneuf-du-Pape, where quality is guaranteed but costly – and you certainly will impress your guests!