The date is set, the guest list is done, food seemed to be the most difficult but you have it figured out. And then you think, what about the wine?
You need a case or two and want a good white and red wine but you have to stay in a reasonable budget. You have invited a close group of family and friends, so you don’t want your reasonable budget to inhibit good taste and style. Good affordable wine need not be expensive and buying in quantity often produces discounts to stretch the budget. So ask your favorite wine shop about their quantity discount. Many shops give 5% to 15% discounts when purchasing 6 to 12 bottles.
Depending on your group and the menu being served you will want to consider the right proportion of red to white. If your menu or group is weighted more towards white wine choose more white but, if not, while it is almost impossible to predict the right proportion, a good rule of thumb is 40% white to 60% red. A bottle of wine is 25.4 ounces so a bottle holds 4 or 5 glasses depending on the portion you pour. If you consider 2 or 3 glasses of wine per person you will need about a bottle of wine for every 2 people. So divide your guest count in two, round up and you should be in good shape.
Choose from any of our guest wine expert’s selections and rest assured that you will satisfy good taste, and style, all within a reasonable budget.
Todd Ants – Owner of Keg Liquors
La Vieille Ferme Rouge 2010 (Ventoux, Rhone, France) $8 and La Vieille Ferme Blanc 2011 (Luberon, Rhone, France) $8
When looking for that combination of great taste and economy, nothing fits the bill quite like the La Vieille Ferme line from the Perrin Family Winery. Both wines come from the tradition-rich Rhone region of France, but are two of the most approachable wines on the market today.
The Blanc (White) is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc, Ugni Blanc, and Rousanne grapes. The flavor is fruity and crisp with a soft finish.
The Rouge (Red) is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, and Cinsault, the classic grape varieties of all Rhone blends, from table wines to those of Hermitage and Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Its flavor is smooth and silky with a touch of blackberry and plum, with a clean, dry finish. Both wines are complex enough to pair with food, but are also bold enough to sip on their own.
At $8 each, they are sure to please both your guests and your wallet.
Scott Harper – Resident F&D columnist & Master Sommelier
Capestrano Verdicchio di Matelica 2011 (Marche, Italy) $12 and Capestrano Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2012 (Abruzzo, Italy) $10
Italy has long been known for wines that go with food — in fact in Italy wine is food. Italy is also known for great wine value and these are two excellent choices for the money. Named after a small village in Abruzzo, Italy, the Capestrano wines reflect both excellent value and an affinity with food.
Made from 100% Verdicchio, the indigenous white grape of the Marche region of Italy, this deliciously dry, light and crisp white wine has the high tone flavors of citrus and fresh-picked apples. It is the perfect aperitif and is an impeccable accompaniment to seafood.
From the grape with 14 letters (Montepuliciano) comes a wine from the Abruzzo region. It is dry and medium-bodied with plenty of fruit and a touch of violet.
This Italian red will complement a vast variety of different foods — from pizza to pasta, antipasti to turkey, and beyond.
Neil Wellinghurst – Kroger Wine & Spirit Specialist
Estancia Chardonnay 2011 (Central Coast, California) $10 and Estancia Merlot 2011 (Central Coast, California) $10
When looking for value in wine the first place to begin is with where the grapes were grown. At $10 retail, at some of the finest wine shops in town one would expect commonly designated “California” wine to be born in the ancient sea that is now called the Central Valley. But the grapes from these Estancia wines were grown not in the Central Valley, but in the Central Coast region of Southern California. The wine from these grapes possess the sense of terroir, the qualities of soil, water and sun of their place of origin. These wines are representative of the quality of wine being produced in California’s Central Coast region.
The Chardonnay (White) is fresh and lively, the flavors of tropical pineapple and stone fruits — peach and pear — dominating the nose and palate. This would complement the Thanksgiving turkey and all the trimmings.
The Merlot (Red) flavors of dark berries — blackberry, blueberry and black cherry — are complemented by a touch of spice and vanilla in this approachable yet serious Merlot. This would pair perfectly with your Christmas filet mignon or lamb chops.
John Johnson – Owner of The Wine Rack
Graziano’s Monte Volpe Primo Bianco 2011 (Mendocino, California) $9 and Tilia Malbec 2012 (Mendoza, Argentina) $10
When choosing wines for a holiday party my standard advice is to go with versatility, and for wines that over-deliver on the quality/price ratio. By versatility, I’m talking about wines that go with a broad spectrum of foods and palates. For my money, this pair of wines are up to the task.
The Monte Volpe Primo Bianco is made by winemaker and proprietor Gregory Graziano, who comes from a robust family of Italian winemakers; his grandfather Vincenzo immigrated to the U.S. and planted his first vineyard in 1918. Greg’s skill at blending is apparent in this cuvee of Chenin Blanc, Arneis, Pinot Blanc, Colombard, Pinot Grigio, Tocai Friulano, and Cortese grape varieties. Fermentation and aging in neutral French oak barrels adds depth to the tropical fruit and citrus notes.
The Tilia Malbec is named for a traditional tree in Mendoza, Argentina. This sustainably-farmed Malbec gives you what you want in a party red wine. This medium-bodied red has concentrated fruit notes of black plum, cherry with just a touch of spice and earth.
Gordon “Gordo” Jackson – Owner Old Town Wine & Spirits and The Wine Market
Chapoutier Belleruche Cotes-Du-Rhone Rouge (Rhone, France) $13 and Chapoutier Belleruche Cotes-Du-Rhone Blanc (Rhone, France) $13
Choosing wines for gatherings is one of my greatest pleasures. Wines all have individual personalities. Some are playful, while others are more serious, even stoic. For our holiday party we will need to choose wisely as our audience is varied as our funds limited. This does not mean that we need to settle for bland or ordinary. After all our party is going to be awesome so the wine should be great. Rhone wine is going to fit the bill for both red and white. I love them with or without food and they are sure to please everyone from the wine lover to the occasional wine drinker.
A blend of the typical Rhone white grapes — Grenache Blanc, Clairette and Bourboulenc make this a deliciously dry, rich and medium-bodied wine with flavors of apple and ripe citrus.
The Rouge is a full-bodied wine packed with red fruits, light pepper and licorice. It is round silky wine and made from Grenache and Syrah.