When you’re having a party, it’s easy and fun to buy some less-expensive wine and serve from decanters, which you may already own. You can get a basic but elegant Riedel Cabernet Decanter (shown here) from Target under $20, and many wine retailers sell decorative decanter tags that you can use to label them.
So decant a white, two reds – a Merlot and a Zinfandel, for example – and let your guests pour for themselves. Do make sure your decanters are immaculately clean and rinse them with very hot water to eliminate any soap reside.
Second suggestion: Get some good bubbly that isn’t “Champagne.” Prosecco is my favorite among the non-Champagne sparklers, and good bottles often go for no more than $12, some even cheaper; for example, Zardetto Conegliano Prosecco can be had for $10 and I’ve seen it as low as $6.
Or try a Spanish Cava – Cava Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut or Aria Estate Cava Brut. Or a French sparkler – Boyer Brut Blanc de Blancs NV, which Sherry-Lehman in NYC carries for $11, or even a nice Rose such as Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne Rose which goes for under $15. On this side of the ocean, try Barefoot Cellars Bubbly Brut (CA) for under $10, or Chandon Riche California Sparkling Wine or Piper Sonoma, Blanc De Noir, both under $15. If your retailer isn’t carrying sparkling wines at these prices, let them know you’d like them to, and that you’ll go elsewhere if you have to!
Third: Get some good bubbly that is Champagne…but not expensive. Try Charles Lafitte Brut Prestige or Gosset Grand Reserve, both $15-18 max. Or Pommery’s ‘Pops’ Champagne Rose for under $14! Again, tell your retailer to get with these recessionary times!
Finally: Put on a wine-tasting party and ask each guest to bring a bottle of his or her favorite but absolutely under $15. Assign a country (France, US, or Australia for example) or a varietal (e.g. Cabernet Sauvignon, or Riesling, or Sangiovese) or just a vintage year (2006 maybe) and see what turns up. Have each guest introduce their wine and say what they paid and where they bought it so guests who like it can get some, too.
Wine, I mean.