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Behind-the-Scenes with a Sommelier: Plan a Party with Beer, Wine & Spirits

Well, the holiday season is soon upon us. Working in the wine business, we actually start planning for Christmas at the end of the summer.  This foresight is key to ensuring that the wine shop is fully stocked with new and interesting products, as well as our old favourites for gift giving and enjoying at the many social events happening this time of year.

 Your calenders are probably already starting to fill up with party dates so I have put together a few helpful tips in order to maximize the festive, wine-related fun. If you are one of those super keen and organized people who has decided to host the party, well, hats off to you!  Here are a few tips on how to get organized in the drinks department:

 1 – Glassware

Make sure you have the necessary glassware (tumblers, cocktail glasses, flutes and wine glasses) to serve your guests.  If you don’t have a stock of your own – just rent them ahead of time and then you won’t even have to worry about the cleanup the next day!  Have some dry erase markers on hand so each guest can write their name on their glass.  I often see those wine charms at parties, but I never seem to remember which charm was mine, though thankfully, I have yet to forget my own name.

2 – Holiday Cocktail

Keep it simple by offering a festive holiday cocktail.  Keep the hard liqueur and overly sugary drinks to a minimum; your head and belly will thank you the next day.

3 – Rum

Rum is a must.  Let’s face it, even those who are not “rum drinkers”, will imbibe this time of year.  If you splurge on good quality rum, your guest has the option to sip it neat or mix it with eggnog.  So amazingly comforting in the chilly nights ahead of us.

4 – Limit the wine selection

Unless you have a bartender and even then, don’t go overboard with choices.  Too much choice just complicates things.  One crowd pleasing white wine and red wine is usually fine.  If you would like to offer more options, I highly recommend not pouring more than two different white wines and red wines; in this case, make sure that the wines are very different in style. Find wines that smell nice and taste good without any harsh edges. Guests will be sipping, snacking and socializing, not overly analysing what is in their glass.

5 – Sparkling Wines

It’s no secret that sparkling wines are festive and fun by nature, so offer at least one. Hint:  it doesn’t have to be Champagne, though I would gladly come to your party if you were pouring Champagne! A locally produced bubbly, creamy Prosecco or crisp Cava are all appropriate, crowd-pleasing choices.

6 – Serving temperature

Serving temperature affects how the wine tastes. This is not as easy to control at a party, so we wont get overly obsessive about serving wine at the ideal temperature; but I always recommend serving your sparkling wines “ice cold” (5C-10C), white wines “cold” from the fridge or ice bucket, and make sure that the reds are not too warm starting out, as they will soon warm up further in the glass.

7- How much to buy?

Many customers ask our advice about this because it can be difficult to tell how much people will drink during a gathering in order to calculate how much wine you’ll have to buy. Here’s a little breakdown to help you estimate- forgive me for the American reference to ounces, but we tend to use that language still when referring to wine!

There are 25 oz in a standard 750ml bottle of wine.  Most serving sizes range from 3 oz-5 oz, so you should be able to get 5 generous drinks out of a bottle.  It’s sometimes tricky to estimate how much each guest will drink, but I find it is usually safe to assume that over a two hour period, a person will easily consume half a bottle of wine.  There will be other drinks on the go and some people consume more, while others may just have one or two drinks over the course of the evening.  Also, depending on the crowd, some people may bring their own drinks. It is always safe to err on the side of buying more wine than less knowing that it won’t go bad and you can have it on hand for future gatherings and holiday gift-giving.

 8- Beer brings more cheer!  

Have a selection of local and craft beers on ice, as well as a couple of cases of  a more generic brand to keep things interesting in this department.

And finally,  please drink responsibly.

Remember that the body can’t store alcohol and that it is broken down by the liver at a rate of about one standard drink an hour.  In order to curb the negative effects of alcohol, drink slowly, drink a glass of water for every alcoholic drink you consume and finally, go ahead and dig into that spinach dip.  Eating while you drink, slows the alcohol entering your bloodstream. Don’t forget to make arrangements ahead of time to get home safely.

Happy party planning!






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