The holidays are just around the corner, and that means parties, food, and wine. I always like to bring a bottle of wine to a gathering, and I definitely like to have a nice selection on hand in case family or friends drop by. For many people, especially those of you who are still in college or just out of college, choosing wine can be intimidating and confusing. I have learned to appreciate wine over the years and by visiting wineries, doing online research, and attending as many events as possible, I have learned that good wine doesn’t have to be expensive, and choosing a wine is fun! I hope the tips below will be helpful to you in choosing wine to serve at upcoming parties or to bring as a host/ess gift.
1) Taste wine! Take advantage of free tastings at local liquor stores, grocery stores, wine shops, and restaurants. This is the best way to get to know what you like without making a commitment to a full bottle. Be sure to bring a notepad and pen with you when tasting so that you can remember the names of wines that you like and the flavors that speak to you. This will be helpful to have on hand the next time you go shopping; any knowledgeable store owner or staff member should be able to make a few suggestions based on what you like.
2) Become familiar with the places around you that sell wine, and compare prices and selection. Places like Trader Joe’s offer some great wines at great prices. You may have a specialty wine shop close by that also has great deals or a great selection. Here in Boston, we frequent Brix in the South End, Cape Verdean Liquors in Dorchester, and of course our favorite, Bin Ends in Braintree. We also just discovered a great NJ wine shop, Wine Chateau, in my hometown of Piscataway. Places that specialize in wine like this also offer frequent tastings, so stop in or check out websites to get tasting schedules. At tastings you will often have the opportunity to speak with an expert who represents the winery or distributor; this is a great way to learn about wines similar to those you are tasting, and in a recent case for us, to learn about some off the beaten path wineries to visit.
3) Consider the occasion. If you are bringing wine to be consumed at an occasion, then spend a little bit of time thinking of things like the time of day, potential menu, and guests. If you are going to a brunch, sparkling wine or even an effervescent white such as vinho verde would be perfect. For other meals, I would probably bring a bottle of both white and red or a couple bottles of bubbly for a toast to the party hosts.
A few of my favorites for under $20:
Mionetto prosecco – Priced at around $10-15 per bottle depending on the prosecco you choose, Mionetto offers crisp, bubbly, and impressive sparklers that really add a special something to an occasion.
Segura Viudas Brut Reserva – At only $9 per bottle, this cava is really a great value with a crisp, delicate flavor.
Both of these would be perfect for a variety of occasions, either mixed some orange juice for mimosas or served alone with a fine meal or even a pizza.
Espiral Vinho Verde – This wine is so cheap, it is hard to believe that it is any good! $4.00 a bottle? Last time I checked! This is a delicious wine to serve in the summer or if you wish it was summer. The citrusy flavors and bright, slight effervescence of the wine are so much fun and pair really well with Thai, Indian, and Mexican foods.
Coppola Sauvignon Blanc- We served this last weekend at the baby sprinkle, and it was delicious. At around $15 per bottle, it is fruity and acidic and offers great quality, in my opinion it would be perfect paired with seafood.
Abrazo del toro- found at Trader Joe’s for less than $6, Abrazo del toro is an easy to drink Spanish red with hints of strawberry and raspberry. I actually had a few bottles of this out when a foodie expert who chooses wines for events was over, and she was completely floored at how good it was for the price!
Red Lion Cabernet Sauvignon- One of our recent purchases from a Brix tasting, this wine sells for around $15-18 and offers ripe red cherry flavors and a nice long finish, perfect for cold fall evenings and a heartier meal. It also has a fun label.
If you read through my posts you can find many more recommendations of wines that are mostly under $20. We recently became members of two wine clubs, Gundlach Bundschu in Sonoma and Travessia here in Massachusetts. Once you find a winery that you like, joining a wine club is a great way to commit to buying wine for a period of time. The selection is usually chosen by the winery which is a fun way to try a good variety of wines that they offer. You usually receive some great perks for joining such as invitations to events, complimentary tastings, wine discounts, and up to date information on the winery’s new releases.
Looking locally for great wine is also a good tip. There are wine regions all over the country. Though they may not be as well known as Napa, many of them produce some excellent wines. I only have started to discover recently how delicious New England wine is. If you live in the area, try out the Coastal Wine Trail. I like Sakonnet, Greenvale, Wesport Rivers, and Travessia best.
I hope that this post will be helpful to all of you, and if you have any questions or suggestions of your own, especially of wineries in CA we should visit, I would LOVE to hear them!
I will be out celebrating a friend’s birthday tonight in Quincy, and I will have a full recap tomorrow!