Entertaining 101: How to Buy Wine for a Party

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Back in undergrad, throwing a party was easy. All you needed was a keg and some red party cups and you were golden. But now that you’re adult AF, you want to throw a classier sort of soiree. And that means providing wine. 

Choosing wine for your party proves easier — and more fun — than you think. Simply follow the checklist below and you’ll wow your guests with your selections and have them asking if you went to sommelier school on the sly. 

1. Plan Your Menu First 

You have more leeway when it comes to aperitifs and after-dinner drinks, but to select the right wine with your meal, plan your menu first. You don’t need to study under a French chef to pair wine with food. Simply remember you have two choices: you can make contrasting or congruent pairings. 

Congruent pairings complement the food they serve. The classic example is pairing a hearty ribeye with a robust cabernet. Contrasting pairings set off the flavor of ethnic cuisine — think pairing a sweet Riesling with spicy Indian or Thai dishes.

2. Consider Your Venue 

If you’re planning a barbecue, you’ll want lighter-bodied wines with lower alcohol content. People tend to drink more as the day wanes, so save heavy reds for formal dinners. 

Your venue also helps determine how much wine to buy. For example, you might serve spritzers at a picnic, reducing the amount of wine you’ll need. 

3. Decide How Much You’ll Need 

A standard bottle of wine holds four glasses’ worth of the good stuff, and most party planners recommend a ratio of one drink per adult guest per hour. When deciding how much you’ll need, add up the number of guests, divide by four, and multiply the result by the number of hours you want your event to last. It’s always a good idea to plan for one extra hour (after all, it’s not like you’re going to let leftovers go to waste, right?). 

Also, keep the alcohol content in mind to prevent guests from getting DUIs when they leave. Wine contains anywhere from 5.5-20 percent alcohol, meaning only two glasses of a stronger vintage could send smaller guests over the legal limit. 

4. Vary Your Colors 

Some people get headaches from red wine as they have allergies to tannins. Even if you plan on serving beef bourguignon, offer at least one white or rosé selection. You don’t want someone toasting with club soda unless they abstain from alcohol altogether. 

5. Offer Drier and Sweeter Options 

Everyone’s taste in wine is as unique as their fingerprint. What tastes terribly dry to you may offer the perfect flavor for another. Strive to balance dry wines with sweet wines. 

For example, if you choose to serve two reds and two whites, make one white a dry chardonnay and another a light, airy Moscato. Serve one fruity merlot with a heady Pinot Noir. 

6. Remember the Bubbly

What’s a party without a toast? One bottle of champagne fills six standard-sized flutes. You can go with a less expensive sparkling wine if you’re on a budget — plan to buy enough bottles to let everyone raise a glass. 

7. Let Friends Bring a Bottle 

Unless you’re truly a sommelier, you’re not the ultimate authority on all things wine. Why not have a fun tasting party by allowing your friends to bring their favorite vintages to share? 

You can make your entire party potluck-style by letting each guest bring a food pairing, too. This can consist of favorite cheese, fruit pairings or other finger food. You can mix, mingle, sample, sip and have a blast! 

8. Ask for Help 

Finally, if you find yourself at your favorite wine shop staring at the shelves, ask one of the staff members for assistance. Believe it or not, they won’t automatically try to sell you the most expensive vintage. Most are not paid on commission, and their passion is helping you plan the perfect get-together. Inform them of your budget and let them recommend wines. 

Picking Your Perfect Party Wines 

Selecting wines for your next soiree need not turn your hair gray. Simply follow the tips above, and you’ll earn a reputation as a maven of all thing’s vino

A special thanks to Kacey Mya, a lifestyle blogger who wrote this awesome article. You can find more of her work at http://www.thedriftercollective.com