Hosting an in-home gathering, while fun, is still full of stress points. A menu needs to be chosen, the dwelling needs to be cleaned and food needs to be prepped and prepared. And, of course, the appropriate adult beverages will need to be selected.
While it may seem easier to create a batch cocktail or let guests serve themselves from a selection of spirits and mixers, being able to pick a wine that will please all types of palates is not as hard as one might think, explains Sandy Walheim, winemaker at Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Healdsburg, CA.
“High-quality wines that exhibit concentrated flavors and have good balance will show well with an array of foods. No matter how grand the event, the wine should be selected with genuine care and the aura of the event in mind,” she says.
Walheim said that knowing about the group being served and its varying level of wine enthusiasm is a jumping point for choosing wines, however, she does have some suggestions when it comes to generic crowd pleasers.
“For a group, I’d have to choose a really delicious Cabernet for the red wine. And for a white wine, I would select a Chardonnay that is very fruit forward. Both of those will cover a wide range of foods and please lots of people,” she says.
Walheim said that while the wine selection will most likely take a backseat in larger groups, with a smaller group, hosts should plan to know a bit about the wine or explain a personal connection as a piece of the conversation.
“A smaller group is inherently more intimate and may be able to appreciate a story about the wine, or some tidbits of information about the process,” she notes.
And if the event is celebrating something significant, like a birthday or anniversary, hosts should take this to the next level and pick a wine that corresponds to the overall feeling of the gathering.
“In general, if there is a story behind the wine and why it was chosen for the occasion, then that really helps synch the wine, food and event. A story helps people remember the event and the good time they experienced there,” she says.
And whether or not things are going as planned, Walheim explained that there is always hope that people will remember it as a positive experience when the wine is good.
“Above all, the wine chosen should be of high quality and express the producer, the place and the grape variety. People may not remember specifics, but they will remember the good feeling of the event,” says Walheim.