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For a dinner party of around 10 guests, here are 5 tips to ensure there’s never an empty glass.

Jonathan Cristaldi
October 30, 2018

Planning an entire party around large-format bottles of wine makes for an unexpected entertaining twist. If you’re the host, you’ll be revered, hailed as a modern-day Hemingway at the Ritz. Your guests will be bowled over with sheer joy, undercut by a slight trepidation and fear of pouring from a massive 6-liter bottle into a 21-ounce wine glass. But that’s a good problem to have. Beyond big bottles, it’s imperative to have a cache of no-guilt red or white wines on hand by the case—just in case.

For a dinner party of around 10 guests, here are 5 tips to ensure there’s never an empty glass.

Big Bottles: Red, Rosé, and Champagne 

Bubbly in Jeroboam: Get out the ice buckets, or in this case, 5-gallon buckets from Home Depot, and fill them about halfway with ice and a quarter more with water to create a really cold bath for the party starters: big 3-liter bottles of Champagne to welcome the evening, and of course, to revisit throughout the night down to the last partygoer standing. Double magnums (called a Jeroboam) hold the equivalent of four bottles of wine. Just imagine the Instagrammable opportunities as you pour from a Jeroboam, looking cool and composed while guests ogle. The cool thing about Champagne is it ages better in larger bottles, so for those paying attention, freshness, complexity, and vibrancy are practically guaranteed. 

Our pick: NV Pol Roger Reserve Brut 

Magnums of Rosé: Big bottles of rosé are a sure-fire bet and total crowd-pleaser. Look for rosé from Tavel in the Southern Rhône. Finding a four-leaf clover is hard, but spotting a Tavel in a lineup of rosé wines is easy—instead of that Provençal salmon-hue, or light pink, they are typically quite dark, more like a transparent red, and they pack a lot of flavor, rich texture, and nuanced spice notes making them ideal for pairing with a bevy of holiday-inspired dishes. 

Pick: 2016 Château de Trinquevedel Tavel Cuvée Traditionelle Rose, Rhone, France

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Imperial bottle of red: “OMG,” is the modern-day classic response to the unveiling of an Imperial (also called “Methuselah”) bottle of red, the equivalent of eight (!) bottles of wine. Even better, if your party of around 10 guests is cool with drinking the same wine all night, splurge for a Balthazar, equal to 16 bottles. Ideally, a bottle this size is of a red from Bordeaux or a California Bordeaux-inspired blend, primarily of Cabernet Sauvignon, blended with any other classic varieties like Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc.

Pick: Château Lynch-Bages, Pauillac, France (an older vintage is ideal)

Thinking Inside The Box  

Most box wines hold the equivalent of four bottles, so think of them as the extreme-value double magnum. They’re also an obvious cheap choice if you’re hosting for more than 10 people and want to feature just a few expensive bottles, while still having plenty to consume throughout the night. This is also a brilliant option for those heavy-pour guests—the same people who like to let the faucet run while brushing their teeth. No matter how many times they go back for a refill, the wine will keep flowing.

Pick: Vin Vault Cabernet Sauvignon

Case-Buy White Wine

How about 12 great bottles for uninhibited, no-guilt cork-popping? There are many excellent options for white wines in the $12 to $18 price range. In the weeks leading up to the November/December holiday entertaining-fest, most online wine sites begin to offer excellent case-buy deals (often at a steep discount) for classic varieties like Italian Pinot Grigio, Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, and South African Chenin Blanc. You’ll also find exceptional French Rhône Valley whites or Rhône-inspired blends of Roussanne, Marsanne, and Viognier from California’s Central Coast—wines that have more weight and rich texture for upping the pairing ante with cheeses and salad courses. But don’t stop there, look for New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc wines which are typically more acid and mineral-driven and help to balance richer fattier foods, or if you find a Loire Valley Sancerre for under-$20, lock it in.

Picks: 2017 Château Fontvert Luberon Les Restanques Blanc, Rhone, France or 2016 Château de Montfaucon Cotes du Rhone Comtesse Madeleine, Rhone, France or Attems Pinot Grigio Venezia Giulia IGT, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy

Case-Buy Red Wine 

For reds, a $15 to $20 per bottle price goal is ideal on case-buys. Of course, no one is saying don’t buy a case of $30 to $60 a bottle Pinot Noir from Oregon or California, but at a lower price point, a world of discovery opens up: Look for lighter-bodied, acid-driven red blends from Greece or Hungary or the myriad gems from southern Italy made from Primitivo or Nerello Mascalese grapes. Alternatively, turn toward France for bright and floral Gamay from Brouilly or Moulin-a-Vent in Beaujolais. There are great Chianti, Barbera d’Asti, or IGP red options from Italy, a bevy of value reds from Spain, great Shiraz deals from Australia, and of course, you can also find rich, decadent red blends in this price range from California that will satisfy anyone’s desire for a hedonistic, full-bodied drinking experience.

Picks: Mommessin Château de Pierreux Brouilly, Beaujolais, France or 2016 Vietti Tre Vigne, Barbera d'Asti DOCG, Italy

The Best Dessert Bottle Options

Most people will tell you they don’t like sweet wines, but the truth is—they’re lying. One sip, for instance, of a luscious Grenache-based Vin Doux Naturel from Rasteau in France’s Southern Rhône Valley and the naysayer, is transformed instantly into a sweet-wine fanatic. Vin Doux Naturel are full-bodied sweet wines that are harder to find in the U.S, but worth the hunt. In the glass, they are typically redolent of black- or blueberry-compote fruit and terrific vibrant purple floral notes. The best are nuanced with wild crushed herbs, smoky minerality, and are balanced by lively acidity, making for a refreshing, lively sipper to round out the night. Alternatively, you could seek out a great Sauternes, but it’ll cost you. Other sweet options might be a late-harvest Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, or Muscat from California, or an off-dry Riesling from New York’s Finger Lakes region. The classicists among you should look to Alsace or Germany for a vibrant botrytized Trockenbeerenauslese, or to Hungary for a stunning Tokaji of 5-6 Puttonyos. 

Picks: Domaine du Trapadis Rasteau Vin Doux Naturel Rouge, Rhone, France or this is really good Fanni kertje Orokseg Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos, Tokaj-Hegyalja, Hungary but only available from a few places or Kiralyudvar Tokaji Aszu 6 Puttonyos 2007

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