Group occasions can have the greatest rewards. But they are often not without lots of stress beforehand. Whether dining out with a bunch of friends, hosting dinner for 12, or planning the party of the year, there’s one issue that always presents a dilemma: what wine to drink? Invariably, there will be differences of opinion and preferences. Is there one wine that can please every palate involved?
Stay calm and take a sip of vino: There’s no need to get each party guest his or her own bottle or to resort to ordering by the glass at a restaurant. In fact, your wallet (and your server) will thank you. For each of these most common wine-ordering dilemmas there lies a happy medium, and, as the problem-solving hero of the party, you most certainly deserve the first glass.
Here are the most common wine-related dilemmas and our solutions to them:
The dilemma: Some want white and some want red
Solution: Rich rosé or light, chilled red.
What seems at first glance to be the most definitive of wine-related dichotomies, the matter of white versus red can indeed come to a pleasing compromise. The idea of rosé is a natural one – what do you get when you mix white and red, after all? The key here is to look for a richer rosé, which will have the flavor and intensity that red wine lovers prefer.
Bottles from Spain and southern Italy are usually good to turn to. If some are strict rosé naysayers, the alternative option is a light red wine that will do well with a slight chill. Red wine lovers will have familiar flavors and textures while white wine lovers will rejoice in the fresh acidity and drinkability that cooler temperatures enhance. Good options are cru Beaujolais, Schiava from Alto Adige, or Old World styles of Oregon Pinot Noir.
The dilemma: Some want dry and some want sweet
Solution: A dry but fruity white.
This one’s a dilemma that seems to most often come up when family comes to town; can’t get a wine that grandma won’t drink, after all! The solution to the dry/sweet debate lies in the condition of fruit flavors in the wine. In fact, in many instances, those requesting a “sweet” white wine don’t actually want a wine with residual sugar; they just want a wine that tastes quite fruity, with soft acidity.
Whites from warmer regions, like California Sauvignon Blanc or blends from southern Portugal, will be big on the fruit flavor while remaining dry and refreshing.
The dilemma: Some want oaky Chardonnay and some want clean Pinot Grigio
Solution: A rich white with fresh acidity & fruit.
While this certainly isn’t true, it can be easiest when in large groups to categorize white wines into two broad style categories: rich, oaky, and Chardonnay-like versus light, fresh, and Pinot Grigio-reminiscent. It may seem like the two camps have nothing in common, but there are wines that fall somewhere in the middle: whites that are rich in body, sometimes even with a bit of oak, but with fresh flavors and plenty of acidity.
Dry Chenin Blanc from Montlouis-sur-Loire or Vouvray, white Burgundy like Meursault, or Friulano from Friuli-Venezia Giulia are all excellent options.
The dilemma: Some want a light red and some want a heavy red
Solution #1: A full-bodied red with high acidity.
Acidity is one of those tricky components of wine that makes everything seem lighter and brighter than it actually is. It’s an excellent way to bridge the gap between light-bodied wines and full-bodied wines. Incredibly, it’s entirely possible for a 15 percent ABV wine to seem light in body – all because of the acidity!
Traditional-styled Italian reds are the way to go here: Sagrantino from Umbria, Aglianico from Campania, or even some classic versions of Barolo and Brunello. If the lovers of heavy reds try to argue that you picked a wine that is too light, point to the alcohol percentage!
Solution #2: A full-bodied red with low tannin
Not a fan of super-high acidity? There’s still a solution: low-tannin reds. One of the things that light-bodied wine lovers crave is the drinkability of their favorite reds, but full-bodied wines can be smooth and easy-drinking as well. The key is to avoid overly tannic wines, which can make wines seem coarse and bitter, particularly to those used to lighter reds.
Zinfandel and Merlot from California as well as Malbec from Argentina are excellent choices. To up the crowd-pleasing factor, chill the red slightly as well; this will make the flavors pop and go down smoothly.