As a wine consultant, I constantly get frantic guests running into the store in demand of a wine to bring for a dinner party. I ask the usual questions, trying to get an idea of what they may want—but ultimately they have no clue what the host likes, no idea what is being served and not even sure if the bottle will be opened that night. All I can get out of them is how much they want to spend, and under $30 is a popular answer. So for this blog I’ve compiled a few wines, all affordable, that are sure to impress. I offer sparkling, whites and reds.
Let’s first look at two sparkling wines from Italy. Contadi Castaldi Franciacorta rosé and satèn. Both are made in the traditional method and easily stand up to many top quality Champagnes at a fraction of the cost. The rosé is exquisite with subtle berry fruits, citrus and roses. The satèn is Chardonnay based with exotic fruit and toasted nuts. They are rated 88 and 91 respectively from Wine Enthusiast.
My three favorite “go-to” whites right now are Solitude Chardonnay, Clos Reissier Pouilly Fuisse and Franciscan Equilibrium. If the guest knows his host prefers CA or French Chardonnay, then either of the first two will be perfect. Solitude has the classic oak and creaminess to suit that palate, while the Pouilly Fuisse shows its distinct crisp, clean taste with perfect acidity. It’s the total opposite of the heavier CA Chard. When the guest is at a loss and cannot choose, I pick the white blend. Equilibrium is quite possibly the perfect white wine. A blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Muscat, it has great body, nectarine and stone fruits with floral and citrus notes. Delish.
Lastly, two reds that are sure to be a hit. When unsure of what red to bring, my go-to is a Pinot Noir and none better than Laetitia Harvest Moon Ranch. More full-bodied than some Pinots, it offers layers of smoke, earth and the typical red fruits. Cabernet Sauvignon is probably the most popular go-to red these days, BUT they are often too dry and too tannic for the masses. I rarely let a guest bring a Cab as a gift unless they are certain the host loves them. Collalto Torrai Cabernet Riserva is the one exception, a blend of 70% Cab Sauv and 30 % Cab Franc. This is a much more reserved style than your typical CA Cab. Medium ruby in color, notes of red fruits, a dash of pepper and a hint of vanilla. A must try.
So my wine loving friends, when in doubt of what to bring to that dinner party, go with any of the above and everyone will be pleased and impressed with your choice. Salute!
Bill Knowles, wine consultant at ABC Fine Wine & Spirits – Boca Raton
Follow me on Twitter @abcwinebillk