The Best Party Wines

Parties, like people, come in all shapes and sizes. Some are small and intimate affairs bringing together our nearest and dearest, and others are created for crowds of hundreds, perhaps even thousands. Most gatherings are geared for groups somewhere between these two extremes. There is, however, one constant: most of those invited will imbibe, and you’ll want to know which wines will refresh your revelers.

As with people, finding the right balance can be tricky. Your guests’ preferences will vary, and you’ll want to serve options that can be enjoyed under all circumstances. The bigger the bash, the more complicated it becomes. With that in mind, selecting wines for a party comes down to two key principles: versatility and value. It’s with these precepts in mind that I propose the following party-friendly powerhouses.

Sparkling wine is synonymous with celebrations, and there’s no better way to kick things off than with bubbles. That said, not all sparkling wines are created in the same way, and the resulting styles (and sticker shock) can be stupefying. 

Prosecco

If you’re looking for a brunch-friendly bubbly, the pop of Prosecco is perfect. Made in the Charmat or tank method, these wines undergo a secondary fermentation in a giant pressurized tank to produce wines that are fresh, floral, and fruit-driven with notes of pear, peach, and blossoms. These budget-friendly beauties will run you between $12 and $19 for a bottle, and they’re perfect for your bellinis and mimosas. Bisol is a particularly reliable producer to procure.

Crémant

On the other hand, you’ve got sparkling wines made in the traditional (or Champagne) method, which differ in character. The secondary fermentation in this method occurs in the same bottle in which the wine will ultimately be sold, so the yeast has a far greater impact on the finished product. As a result, these wines develop toasty notes that can range from bread dough to pie crust, often with a nutty profile on the finish. The problem? Champagne, in particular, can be a pricy proposition for a party.

Look instead for a Crémant, a sparkling wine produced in the style of Champagne from one of eight other designated regions in France. While the base grapes may vary by region (for example, Chenin blanc often is used in the Loire while Chardonnay and Pinot noir are preferred in Burgundy), they’re all made like Champagne at a fraction of the cost. Pierre Sparr’s offering from Alsace is a delight that will set you back $19.99 a bottle, but nearly any Crémant in the $15 to $25 range will surely satisfy.

Whites

When it comes to whites, you’ll want something to wet your whistle without overwhelming the palate. Again, versatility is key: look for bottles and grape varieties that are fermented in neutral containers like stainless steel or concrete. Pinot Grigio is popular at parties because of that prized neutrality, whereas many a Chardonnay, particularly from California, can have a prominent influence of either oak or buttery notes from malolactic conversion, and that can clash with foods or prove overpowering.

There’s beauty in simplicity, and a mouthwatering Muscadet from France’s Loire Valley (Domaine de la Pépière is a standout producer) ticks all the boxes with high acidity, light body, and gentle notes of melon and orchard fruit. Many Muscadets can be had for under $15, so it can be affordable for even your most sizable shindig. Dry Rieslings from Australia should also be considered with producers like Pewsey Vale and Pikes offering sub-$20 standouts that will change minds and hearts. 

Reds

For a red, dip your toes into Spain’s treasure troves of old vine Garnacha. Garnacha is great because it’s got low tannin, relatively high acid, and can be enjoyed with a slight chill for those summer soirées. Producers like Paniza craft seriously quaffable quality from vines planted in the northern Cariñena region for a mere $9.99, and you’ll find many others that will please your guests with their red fruit-driven, juicy profile in that general price range. Cinsault is another grape that would fit the bill, and you can find plenty of inexpensive examples from Chile and South Africa.

You can’t predict everything that partygoers will prefer, but if you browse the shelves through the lenses of value and versatility, the possibilities are promising.

Story by Adam Knoerzer

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