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Tips on Buying the Perfect Wine for Your Holiday Party

With Christmas and New Year's Eve looming, here's what to bring to your next gathering.

By Bob McGinn December 22, 2021

Christmas and New Year’s Eve are the most social holidays of the year. While we celebrated Thanksgiving with family, we now enter the realm of the party circuit.

Such gatherings may be small, intimate affairs or large, boisterous events. We may know the participants or may be meeting them for the first time. Since wine is universally accepted (forget about seltzer; it’s passé), each of these venues require some thought as to which wines to bring.

The nice aspect of hosting is that the guests will likely bring their own wines. Otherwise, just try to bring something appropriate. I have been to many holiday parties and am constantly amazed by the low-quality wines people bring. They're easy to spot, because the bottles are nearly full at the end of the evening. I’ve learned to bring a magnum (two bottles), because otherwise I might not have the opportunity to enjoy my own wine. Plus, a magnum of good wine looks very similar to the cheap jugs already on the table.

(Recently, a syndicated advice columnist was asked if the writer could take his unopened bottle home, thinking that, since it was not opened, it was not really a gift. Of course, the answer was no.)

So, what’s the appropriate wine to bring? Most parties offer some sort of meat dish either as an appetizer or on a buffet, so a red wine would be appropriate. A cabernet sauvignon from Gamble Family Vineyards or a merlot from Château Carignan would be fine. If you want to bring a white wine, consider a chardonnay from Gary Farrell or fume blanc from Ferrari-Carano. Costco’s line of Kirkland wines are very reasonably priced and offer great quality.

An unusual gift would be “12 Nights of Wine: Women Winemakers Holiday Edition Boxes” from Vinebox. The brand chose European wines made by women and commissioned two artists to design the 2021 boxes. The limited-edition boxes include four whites, two rosés and six reds, all handpicked by certified sommeliers, for $129.

If the recipient is a true expert, he or she will appreciate any well-made wine. You might scour the Wine Spectator top 100 list and choose one or two that fit your budget. Or discuss choices with experts at Michael's Wine Cellar or Seagrape Wine Co. The effort will be much appreciated.

Sparkling wine is de rigueur for New Year’s Eve. Depending on your budget, consider Zardetto prosecco, Domaine Carneros sparking wine or a great Champagne like Gosset or Dom Pérignon. These are usually long evenings, so let prudence prevail. Good luck and happy holidays.

Bob McGinn has spent his entire career in the wine industry—forming wine clubs, working in wine sales marketing and engaging in all facets of the winemaking process, including vine management, fermentation and yeast analysis. He has developed wine programs for companies such as Marriott, Sheraton and Smith & Wollensky, and consults with local restaurants. You can read more of McGinn’s work at gulfcoastwinejournal.com.

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