So you’ve decided to take the plunge and have a real New Year’s Eve party. Or you’ve invited the family over for Christmas Dinner. Or you just want to have a party because it’s the end of the year and it would be fun.
Or at least you thought it would be fun when you sent the invites out. Now that said event is staring you in the face, you’re feeling that cold rock in your tummy and wondering what the heck were you thinking? You want to serve wine, but have no clue what to buy or how much. And what if you get the wrong one? What if everyone thinks you’re a total dweeb, newb, dope?
Stop. Right now. Take a deep breath. Take another. You know, it’s that kind of judgmentalism that we are fighting here at OddBallGrape.com. If we had a sharp stick to poke in the eye of each condescending jerk who smiled in that oh-so-superior way and made some snarky comment, we’d have a freaking forest. Trust us, unless one of those folks happens to be a close, personal friend or a relative, you won’t be dealing with somebody like that. And if you are, make said close personal friend or relative buy the freaking wine. With his or her money.
We’re going to assume you’ve already figured out your budget. If you’re doing a dinner for, say, five to 10 people, you can afford slightly more expensive wines (say, around $10-$15 a bottle) and you’ll match your wines to what you’re serving – red wines with red meat and heartier fare, whites with seafood and lighter tasting fare. If you’re doing something decidedly spicy, such as Indian, Thai or Mexican food, then a slightly sweet wine like a gewurztraminer or riesling does wonders. You don’t need a different wine for each course unless you want to do it that way. You don’t even have to serve courses, but you might since it is a big holiday dinner. In which case, serve a nice light white with the soup and salad courses, and then match your dinner wine to your main course.
And don’t stress over the matching. Cabernet sauvignons, syrahs, and tempranillos all tend to be heavier reds that go well with food. Merlot is one of those reds that tends to be in the middle, while pinot noirs are generally a lighter red. Chardonnays are your basic white, which goes with most lighter fare, such as white fish and sauces, while sauvignon blancs tend to have more and crisper acid, which goes better with cheese. If you really want to cover your backside, forget all of the above and find a nice sparkling wine you like and serve that with the whole meal. Almost everybody loves bubbly and it goes with everything. As for how much, see below for the formula.
Don’t stress about spending $15 a bottle for a larger party. You won’t have to and no one will expect you to. There are plenty of drinkable brands for less – just be sure you’re serving something you like. They won’t be transcendent, but you’re not looking for transcendent here. You’re looking for something fun that goes down easily with or without food.
So get a few different bottles in your price range and do a quick tasting. The ones you like the best are the ones to buy. That wasn’t so hard now, was it?
But how much? How much? You can generally get four to five glasses from each bottle of still wine, five to six glasses from each bottle of sparkling wine. No, you don’t need champagne flutes, but figure you’ll get only four to five glasses per bottle then. For parties, we usually do our math based on the whole guest list, even though we know not everyone is going to show up. That way, we’re less likely to run out. We assume two glasses per person, then buy two bottles of white to one bottle of red for the whole group. Or, for example, we’ve got 30 people invited. Probably only 20 will show, but just in case, we figure each person will drink two glasses of wine (they won’t, some will drink more, some won’t drink wine at all). So we need 60 servings. Each bottle will give us five servings, so we need 12 bottles, comprised of eight bottles of white to four bottles of red. Add a case of beer for those who like it. A couple bottles each of cola, diet cola, and lemon-lime soda, and maybe a pot of coffee and a pitcher or two of de-caf iced tea, and you’re golden.