Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Any Excuse for a Party

Choosing party wines is always a tricky balancing act between price and quality. You don't want to spend all of your budget on expensive wines when, if you look hard enough, you can get decent wines at a reasonable price. We are bombarded with special offers at this time of year but a vast majority of the wines on these offers are not up to scratch. Here are a few pointers I always stick to when buying party wines.

1) Generally I buy two bottles of white wine for every red wine but in winter months people tend to go for red wine more regularly so half and half should be ok.

2) I would allow about half a bottle per guest and then get a few bottles extra just in case you are all having a particularly good time. A lot of wine merchants allow sales and return.

3) Even if you have a huge budget don't go straight for expensive, rich Cabernets and buttery Chardonnays. Firstly, the high levels of tannin in rich red wines mean your guests teeth will stain really easily and secondly, these kind of wines are often high in alcohol and heavy may get your guests a bit raucous. For red wines look at alcohol levels below 13% and for white below 12%. Here are some light wines to look out for:

  • REDS - Red burgundy, Chianti, Rioja, Beaujolais Village (look for 2009 vintage Beaujolais, one of the best vintages in the regions history)
  • WHITES - German Riesling, Marlborough Sauvignons, Muscadet, Italian varietals such as Verdicchio, Gavi and Pinot Grigio
4) There are some great value sparkling wines on the market. Cava is experiencing a renaissance period and many vintage Cavas have champagne-esque nuances. Cava is made using the "traditional method" in which champagne is made and many good Cavas use the same grape varietals as well. Prosecco is another good option. It is light and usually slightly off-dry, so it refreshes your mouth between canapes. It is also generally pretty low in alcohol.

Good Light Reds 

Chateau Mont Milan 2007 - This Decanter Gold Medalist has attractive, light-red fruit flavours and a pleasant dry finish. Its is very food friendly and only £4.99 if you buy 2 bottles or more at Majestic.

Château Mont Milan  - Majestic Wine
Castillo de San Lorenzo Rioja Reserva - This is half price in Tesco from the 1st December until the 4th January and is priced at £4.99 a bottle. It has classic Rioja style with spicy, dried fruits and well integrated woody flavours and is only 12.5% abv.
Castillo de San Lorenzo Rioja Reserva

Fresh Whites

Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc - Everyone knows Oyster Bay, its a guaranteed winner at most parties. Its light, zesty and clean and is £5 in tescos until the 5th of December.

The Chateau de Ligny and Villa Maria from my earlier posts are perfect for parties too.


Lindauer Special Reserve Brut Cuvee NV - This is £8.35 a bottle at Waitrose until the 4th of January. It's made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes (like Champagne), goes through a second fermentation in the bottle (like Champagne) and is aged for 2 years on its sediment to give it extra body and richness. It has a pretty, pink blush colour and has lots of rich, red fruit flavour and a touch of creaminess. 

Codorniu Brut NV is £5.99 at Sainsburys until the 4th of January. It has a pleasant apple pie-like character which would work nicely with pork and chicken dishes as well as many fruit based desserts.

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