Party Wine on a Budget

Five tips for choosing wines that will make the night but won’t break the bank.


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Drinks are the life of the party, but they don’t have to hog the whole budget. Here are five tips for choosing delicious, easy-drinking wines that will make your party but won’t break the bank (your guests will just think so).

1. Stick to fruit-forward wines. Save dry, earthy, Old World-style wines with all their complexities and nuances for a meal; when you’re throwing a big party, wines that are easily understandable and taste good sipped alone are ideal for guests who may not be wine-savvy. California, Chile, Australia, and South Africa are good go-to countries for New World, fruit-forward value wines.

2. Buy in bulk. Box wine isn’t nearly as wretched as it used to be; in fact, many brands are downright delicious, and you can’t beat the value.

3. Embrace the decanter. Decanting isn’t just for removing sediment from cellar-worthy old wines; it’s also perfect for hiding box wine or an inexpensive label. Decant wine in the kitchen and serve it elegantly in the party room, and your guests won’t be the wiser.

4. Ask partygoers to contribute. If you’re hosting a group of wine-savvy friends, ask them to each bring a bottle. Not only will you go easy on your budget, but your group can have a fabulous time discovering new wines.

5. Think big. Pricey Bordeaux and other collectible wines often come in large-format bottles, but you can find sparkling wines in the 1.5-liter size that look great and offer value. Look for brand-name Champagne and sweeter bubblies like Asti Spumante in this size.

Below are some of my favorite widely-available value party wines. You can also search for Wine Enthusiast’s “Best Buys” in the online database for more value wine ideas.

Bubbly: Segura Viudas Cava (Spain); Domaine Ste. Michelle (Washington)

White: Banrock Station Box Chardonnay (Australia);  Pacific Rim Riesling (Washington); Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand)

Red: Red Diamond Merlot (Washington); Pillar Box Red (Australia); Rosenblum Zinfandel (California); Black Box Shiraz (California)

Gretchen Roberts is a wine and food writer who writes frequently for Wine Enthusiast Magazine, myrecipes.com, Woman’s Day, and more. Visit her Web site at www.gretchenroberts.net.

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