The Wine Blog

Holiday Party Planning

December 19, 2012

Ahhh the holidays. A joyous time to eat, drink and be merry… but nothing brings merriment to a halt like poor planning in the beverage department.


So, how do you know how much and what to serve? I’ve been planning wine events for about 15 years now and have mostly kept industry secrets to myself, but ‘tis the season of giving!


Let’s begin with how much wine.


A simple calculation is 1 glass per person, per hour.  You can get about 6 healthy-sized glasses out of a bottle. A quick way to estimate for large parties is 12 btls of wine per 100 people for every hour. This allows for a glass per person per hour.


For the holidays, sparkling should be above and beyond this calculation. Pour half glasses of sparkling at parties to avoid waste and loss of bubbles (folks can always get a refill!) With that, you can get about 10 half glasses per bottle. Factor in a half glass per person.


Here’s a quick cheat sheet for a 4-hour party with bon vivants:

25 people      12 bottles of still wine (1 case); 3 bottles of sparkling

50 people      24 bottles of still wine (2 cases); 5-6 bottles of sparkling

100 people    48 bottles of still wine (4 cases); 10 bottles of sparkling


Now for which wines to serve.


Obviously you need white and red.  If you know your crowd likes one type over another split it 60%/40% in its favor. If you aren’t sure, do ½ red and ½ white.


People tend to have more white aversions than red, but you should offer a choice within each category.


For white – Whites can be tricky, because people tend to have specific preferences regarding oak, sweetness and pungency – all which range quite a bit in white wines. At a minimum, do an oaked white (eg. Chardonnay) and a non-aromatic unoaked white (Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Muscadet, or virtually any white wine from Italy, Spain or Portugal). If you plan to serve more than two white wines, you can mix it up and introduce a white wine that is aromatic (eg. Torrontes, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat) or slightly sweet (eg. Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Moscato).


For red – Red wine drinkers tend to fall into two categories – old world and new world. At a minimum, try to offer one of each.  From the new world, try a medium to full-bodied red with some oak on it – Cabernet, Shiraz/Syrah, Zinfandel, and Malbec are good contenders in this department and can all be found at reasonable prices.


From the old world, opt for a medium-bodied wine with little oak influence.  Fortunately, this is pretty easy to find, as oak is typically saved for only the more expensive wines in the old world.  Italy is a great resource for elegant old world reds: Barberas, Dolcettos, Chianti Classicos, Valpolicellas are some common and affordable Italian reds. Also explore the reds from the Languedoc and Loire in France, as well as grand cru Beaujolais.


Here’s what we had at our holiday party.  No one NEEDS this many wines, but they were certainly quite fun to have… Fa la la!

Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bougogne NV France, Burgundy
Renardat Fache Cerdon du Bugey Rose NV France, Bugey
Segurra Viudas Cava NV Spain, Penedes
Thelmo Rodgriguez Basa Rueda 2011 Spain, Rueda
Corey Creek Gewurztraminer 2010 New York, Long Island
Hess Select Monterey Chardonnay 2010 California, Monterey
Lageder Muller-Thurgau 2011 Italy, Veneto
Domaine de Belliviere Jasnieres Premices Chenin Blanc 2010 France, Loire
Elk Cove Pinot Gris 2011 Oregon, Willamette
Seresin MOMO Pinot Noir 2009 New Zealand, Marlborough
Pozzan Annabella Napa Merlot 2009 California, Napa
Casa Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 Chile, Colchagua Valley
Chateau de Lascaux Rouge 2009 France, Languedoc
Raffault Chinon Les Galluches 2011 France, Loire
Enrique Foster Malbec Reserve 2007 Argentina, Mendoz
Sandrone Dolcetto d’Alba 2010 Italy, Piedmonte



Happy Holidays!!