There’s a lot to consider when hosting a dinner party. Guest lists, food, conversation, and ambiance are up to you, but what we can guarantee is a guideline for wines and a successful wine party that everyone will enjoy. And yes, this goes for whatever the occasion: a friend’s holiday party, your birthday celebration, a work milestone, or even when planning a wedding, these tips and tricks are here to hold your hand through the decision-making to create a smash hit of a party.
Dinner Party Checklist: the Wine
Before we get to the dinner party part, let’s talk…logistics. It might not sound like fun, but taking these few pointers into consideration will ensure the party is smooth, wine-spotless (or at least easily removable), and fun.
How much wine do you need?
The only thing worse than not having wine at a party is not having enough wine. Use these calculations to ensure everyone’s glass stays full ‘til the end:
- One 750ml bottle = 5 generous glasses.
- Figure at least two glasses per person.
- Plan for about 1 bottle per person. This might sound like a direct contradiction to the above two points, but not everyone will like all the wines equally, so some will go quicker than others; and you’re better off with too much than not enough.
- You’ll probably need more sparkling wine than you think.
Wine Considerations for a Successful Dinner Party
Look, if you have wine and food, your friends are going to be perfectly happy (as long as you also have a corkscrew to open it). But if you’re aiming for unforgettable or even epic, here are additional points to remember:
- Glassware: Give everyone two glasses—one for red and one for white (more on that below). You don’t need to get fancy, but a medium to medium-large glass for white and a larger one than that for red will be perfect. Use a flute or tulip-shaped glass for sparkling (just be aware that those trendy 1920s coupe glasses will allow the bubbles to dissipate more quickly, so…drink up!).
- Corkscrew: duh. But what kind? Don’t sweat it: whatever allows you to open the bottle easiest.
- Dark napkin: Wrap this around the neck of your red wines to capture the inevitable drip.
- Towel: Place this overtop the cork when opening Champagne (it helps it from flying out at up to 55 mph—let’s not ruin anyone’s night!). Here’s a great video showing exactly how to open the Champagne bottle properly.
- Stain remover: The lady wearing her new blouse will love you for procuring a Tide pen like magic for a quick fix. Advise her to clean it with dreft stain remover once she’s home. If it’s your carpet, we can attest to Resolve spray. Here are other great tips on how to remove pesky wine stains.
- How charming: We’ve all become more careful about sharing germs, even with our closest friends and family. With all the mingling, setting your glass down for food, and hugging new arrivals, keep a track on which glass is whose with wine charms or dry erase pens. Wine charms are a dime a dozen (or $8.99 for 42 at the time of writing), and here are several different options for good quality dry-erase pens (make sure you choose one with low odor!).
Prep Your Bottles
Your bottles should be served at the correct temperature, which means chilled in the fridge for at least two hours for whites, or 20 minutes in the freezer; and about ten minutes in the fridge for reds. Yes, you read that correctly: you want your red to have a slight chill on it. It will taste better, and a whole host of other reasons (listen to Anthony Giglio’s temperature tantrum if you need convincing).
Next: preopen your bottles. This will encourage everyone to refill when needed. If you want your wine to “breathe,” this won’t achieve much more than letting the top inch breathe. You’ll want a decanter for that.
Finally, prep your ice bucket. Something fancy or something MacGyvered doesn’t matter: what does is serving a properly chilled white. Don’t forget to add cold water to the ice bath for a quicker chill!
Sparkling for Cocktail Hour
Appetizers, cocktail hour, hors d’oeuvres, the ice breaker…call it what you will, but the first moment when your guests walk in the door is crucial to setting the mood for the evening (see, we’re even helping you with the ambiance, now!). A sparkling wine is just the choice to start the night. Bubbles are easy-drinking, friendly, and overall crowd pleasers. They have a celebratory feel, signifying that the occasion is special. Plus, bubbles are happy! With a touch of sparkling, you’ll loosen up the early birds and get the conversation flowing. Try the Alta Vista Brut Sparkling Rosé of Malbec: its pink hue and fine bubbles set an elegant mood.
Sparkling wines are food-friendly across the board, so don’t worry about what to serve with the last-minute finger food you cobbled together or the painstakingly chosen appetizer menu you planned months ago. If you really aim to please the largest number of people, slightly sweet sparkling wine tends to be a crowd-pleaser, even for the beer and cocktail crowd. The Medici Ermete Quercioli Dolce Reggiano Lambrusco DOC has just the right touch of residual sugar to sweet-talk its way into the hearts of your guests.
White and Red for Dinner
You might have a four-course feast, a potluck, or a simple homestyle meal with several side dishes. However your spread looks, you need both a red and a white wine. Beyond the fact that there’s always someone who “only drinks white/red wine,” different wines match with different foods—without getting too technical, the main goal is to keep the wine and food balanced, neither one overpowering the other. It’s also a welcome option to switch up the flavors as you progress through the meal.
Generally, start from lightest to heaviest. White wines pair with the charcuterie and cheese spreads you might be carrying over from cocktail hour, as well as any lighter fare you’re serving: pasta, risotto, vegetables, potatoes. The Norton Select Sauvignon Blanc is fresh and vibrant, a go-to wine for salads, veggies, and fish. The Seeker Pinot Grigio has a more delicate taste profile while still being bright and crisp, and is perfect for basil pesto, chicken, and cheese.
Next, choose a food-friendly red wine: this means higher acidity, fruity, and medium-bodied. One of the most food-friendly reds out there is an Italian Barbera, and if you pick up the crowd-pleaser Michele Chiarlo Le Orme Barbera d’Asti DOCG, you can segue from lighter meats (even chicken) towards grilled and roasted red meats or savory mushroom dishes. Reds from South America also fit the fruity, food-friendly bill, and you might want both a light and bold red—it’s all about offering choices! Montes Limited Selection Cabernet Sauvignon-Carmenère is an expressive blend from Chile and the perfect choice for lamb, beef, and pork.
Finishing your dinner party with dessert? It’s not really recommended to pair dry dinner wines with sweet food, because it will make the wine taste harsh and sour and ruin your dessert, too. Instead, match the sweetness of the dessert to the wine: opt for a Port, a Moscato d’Asti, or finish off that lightly sweet Lambrusco from happy hour (though the amount of sugar is less than a dessert wine, so this is a better choice for a less-sweet dessert).
Finally, if you know you’ll be hosting a few or even just one friend who is “into” wine, use it as an excuse to Open That Bottle. Serve something special from your cellar or wine fridge that you were saving for…just what, exactly? This! Perhaps it is related to an anniversary, event, or shared memory; maybe it has a fun story behind it you’d love to share. Red, white, pink, or sparkling, now is the time to open it.
What d’ya know…we have the perfect wine bundle for no-hassle hosting at your next dinner party! All the amazing wines mentioned above are available in a convenient pack only a click away at our Wine365 Shop.