Ask a Sommelier: The Best Party Wines

Ask a Sommelier

We ask top somms across the country for their wine-related advice.


[Photograph: Shutterstock]

With the holiday season fully upon us, we all need something festive to drink. Whether we're toting it with us to a cocktail party or serving it to guests, there are certain wines that work especially well for a party. We asked wine experts from across the country what they like to open when it's party time.

Here's what they had to say...


Theresa Paopao of Ribelle in Brookline, MA

"Right now it's rosé! It's a myth that we should only drink pink wine from the most recent vintage and only during the summer. Many of the rosés out there are crisp and dry, which makes them great to enjoy on their own or with a variety of party snacks. No need to worry about specific food pairings or having purple teeth at a party!" —Theresa Paopao (Ribelle)

"In the winter, I love Cru Beaujolais. It is relatively inexpensive, but it's totally drinkable and is a crowd pleaser." —Shannon Tucker (Foreign Cinema)

"For parties, I tend to gravitate toward things in a box. From one-liter boxes of organic Sangiovese in a Tetra Pak (Fuoristrada Sangiovese 2010 is my favorite) to five liters of organic Bonarda or Barbera from the Pedmont (go with Cascina Roera Langhe Rosso)." —Liz Vilardi (Belly), (The Blue Room), and (Central Bottle Wine + Provisions)

"Bubbles! Always bubbles. I'm crushing on Melaric Cabernet Franc. Its tiny pink bubbles are a little funky and something different. Most people don't treat themselves to sparkling wine. I think it's special and love to drink it any chance I get." —Sarah Egeland (Smallwares)


Joe Camper of DB Bistro Moderne in NYC

"My favorite wine to bring to a group of friends is Pierre Peters Cuvée Reserve Champagne, in magnums. First of all, who doesn't love Champagne? Secondly, it's from one of the greatest producers of 'Farmer Fizz' ever. In addition to that, even though it is a non-vintage wine (and priced like a NV!), it is secretly an undeclared vintage wine! Currently 2008. (To be clear, only the Magnums are all one vintage)." —Joe Camper (DB Bistro Moderne)

"Riesling is the king of party wine. The light body and fruity palate is very approachable to non-wine drinker and experienced winos. My absolute favorite is Riesling in a magnum bottle. It is the sexiest bottle shape out there and will sure make a conversation starter." —Bank Atcharawan (Chada Thai & Wine)

"It really depends on the party and the time of the year, but right now I would say my go-to party wine is Rhone Valley for red, and Alsace for white. These wines are really well suited for this time of the year because they have a really nice spice, and go well with seasonal ingredients. My favorite in the magnum format is Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe, "La Crau", 2009." —Pedro Goncalves (Oceana)


Jessica Brown of The Breslin and John Dory Oyster Bar in NYC

"Champagne! Or sparkling wine in general because it is always festive and celebratory. I am huge fan of rosé Champagne (all year round!). Magnums are always more fun! If you have enough people, opening any large format bottle is always a show stopper and conversation starter." —Jessica Brown (The Breslin) and (The John Dory Oyster Bar)

"For party wines I believe in going with the classics. Let's be honest, people are there to socialize and have fun, not to learn about a grape they've never heard of. I also believe in serving white wines—when you are socializing all night no one wants purple teeth or a dry mouth from too much tannin. Chablis is my favorite party wine—light and crisp enough that it is refreshing, and delicious enough that guests keep drinking more and more, ensuring that they have a good time. Picking up a village level Chablis from an iconic producer like Dauvissat will make any wine geeks at your party happy without emptying your bank account." —Jeff Kellogg (Maialino)

"My go-to party wine is definitely Cru Beaujolais. I try to find good producers that distribute in magnum format (1.5 Liters) because the great examples are honestly almost too easy to drink, and single bottles are never enough to go around. Cru Beaujolais (especially from the villages of Morgon and Fleurie) is one of the most versatile wine regions for medium-bodied red wines out there and can serve as a charming wine to drink with snacks or can pair with a whole array of dishes from Mexican to Thai and in between." —Eduardo Porto-Carreiro (DBGB Kitchen and Bar)


Emily Larkins of Craigie on Main in Cambridge, MA

"Riesling is great for parties because it is refreshing, gulpable and tends to be lower in alcohol. If you like dry wine, look for the word 'trocken' on the label, and if you are in the mood for something off-dry look for 'feinherb' or 'halbtrocken'. Darting makes a liter bottle of Kabinett Riesling that retails for less than $20." —Emily Larkins (Craigie on Main)

"Has to be sparkling. My very favorite right now is a Cremant de Loire from Chateau de Breze. Pure Cab Franc, made in a Champagne style. (It pours by the glass at Remedy.) At $23 retail it smokes a lot of true Champagne at two-three times the price. In liter format, yes! I've been trying to get a true Alsacienne Edelzwicker (loosely translated as 'noble blend') for many years. With the help of a local importer we were able to get one from the producer Loen Boesch. It's a catch-all blend of many of the grapes they grow—Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc—and it changes every year. At $18 its a total steal!" —Dan Beekley (Remedy Wine Bar)

"For me, the key to party wine is to keep it fresh, juicy and on the lighter side—big, chewy reds get a little hard to drink by themselves after the first half-glass! Perennial favorites include leaner styles of Grüner Veltliner, like the Forstreiter Kogl or Fritsch Schlossberg, as well as Vermentino from Sardinia or Liguria (look for Argiolas or Terre Bianche) for whites. When it comes to reds, a good go-to is Cru Beaujolais from Domaine du Vissoux (the Morgon is excellent) or Domaine des Braves, or for some spice in your life, pick up some Zweigelt from Hans & Anita Nittnaus." —Mia Van de Water (North End Grill)


Brent Braun of Levant in Portland

"I love bringing Manzanilla or Fino sherry to parties. Many of my friends are casual wine drinkers and they haven't really experienced the joys of dry sherry. Sherry can be challenging to the uninitiated, thus they are great for parties because they are perfect for stimulating conversation. Salty, nutty and tasting quite a bit like melons dipped in sea water, they are totally unique to themselves. And most importantly, parties almost always have salty snacks and sherry is the ultimate salty foods wine." —Brent Braun (Levant)

"One of my all-time favorites for a crowd-pleasing party wine is Gruner. Very often, you can find a light, refreshing and quite food-friendly selection at a great deal, which when entertaining a crowd can be very important. It is not uncommon too to see these Austrian gems in 1-liter formats, making post-party cleanup a breeze. Some of my dinner party staples include the Weingut Ott Am Berg Gruner Veltliner from Wagram and the Nigl Alte Reben Gruner Veltliner from Kremstal. Both are incredibly bright, mineral driven whites that pair well with nearly all menu items." —Kristen Capella (TBD)

"I would go for a magnum of Champagne, for sure. The holidays are all about making events memorable, and there's no better way to grab everyone's attention than popping a big bottle of Champagne. It truly gets the party started and makes the holidays all about an experience. I would recommend a Chartogne-Taillet cuvée "Sainte Anne" which is a really great value." —Michael David Murphy (Taste), (Pastaria), (Brasserie by Niche), and (Niche)


Josiah Baldivino of Michael Mina in San Francisco

"Beaujolais in Jeros. I've had many good times with Clos de la Roilette." —Josiah Baldivino (Michael Mina)

"My go-to party wine has to be something light and refreshing with high acidity. You want a crowd pleasing wine that won't offend anyone. The acidity and freshness are important because you want people to have multiple glasses and keep the party going! I would recommend dry Riesling from Alsace or Austria. Cooler climate reds such as Barbera from northern Italy, Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley, and Grenache based Cotes du Rhone would all work." —Joshua Pauley (Black Salt)

"Rosé is a great party wine because it pairs well with just about any food. I like to host parties where 'you can bring anything you like, as long as it's a bottle of rosé.' People will bring wine from all around the world and it's great to sample all the different styles of roses that show up." —Corin Weihemuller (Comal)

What's your go-to party wine? Share your recommendations in the comments.

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