Pop the Cork

Need a Last-Minute Bottle of Wine? Here's How to Pick a Good One

Don't underestimate the power of a bottle of bubbly. (Just make sure it's chilled!)

By Bob McGinn December 20, 2023

We've got tips for selecting a bottle of wine when time is of the essence.

We've all experienced the last-minute need to pick up something to bring to a dinner or other social event. Usually it's a bottle of wine. So how do you choose with little time to spare?

If you're close to one of our better wine shops, the problem is quickly solved. If not, a nearby Publix or another grocer will suffice. I've been is this situation on numerous occasions and have stared alongside others at the wine selections like a deer in the headlights. Do you go for the top shelf where everything is over $20, or perhaps the next shelf down where the prices are more to your liking but you don’t recognize any labels? Or do you look for the BOGO  selections, which are almost always sold out? (No matter what, forget the bottom shelf. Those bottles are often plonk and shout out cheap.)

Here are a couple suggestions that might help. First, everyone will be pleased to receive sparkling wine. It connotes celebration and it’s unlikely anyone else will bring a bottle. (Also, it’s very likely the host will open it immediately and you will be praised.) Sparkling wine is a great icebreaker and starts any event on a happy note. Domaine Chandon or Mumm Napa are great options and around $20 or less. On the second shelf, Prosecco, a sparkling wine from Italy is very popular right now. It has the cache of Champagne, with lower alcohol content (around 11 percent) which is also very much in vogue. The top selling brand is La Marca, also usually less than $20. I served a bottle last week and my guests were quite pleased. Just make sure your sparkling wine is chilled. Most stores have a chilled section near the wine shelves.

Now, if the host is knowledgeable about wine, this ups the ante a bit. Very few wine aficionados expect guests to bring a special wine. Most collectors don’t drink special bottles every day, so an everyday drinking wine would be fine. Brands like Josh or Ferrai-Carano have both red and white selections that are above average. Also consider Italian brands from Antinori or French producers such as Louis Jadot.

If time is of the essence and you only have seconds to buy, go to an endcap display. Take a chance—and good luck!

Filed under
Show Comments