Now that turkey leftovers have been dispatched and Black Friday and Cyber Monday are behind us, the brave among us may be considering hosting a Christmas soiree. Inevitably, there is angst associated with estimating the amount of wine to have on hand for such gatherings.
There are no hard and fast rules governing this, but there are suggestions to take into consideration if serving a crowd larger than a typical seated dinner party.
The standard wine bottle contains 750 milliliters, the equivalent of 25.36 ounces of wine. The average wine pour is 4 to 5 ounces. Working on the assumption of pouring 5-ounce servings for guests, you should be able to get five pours from a standard 750 ml bottle.
Experts who study these things say the average guest will consume two glasses of wine. This assumes some guests will consume no alcohol at all, or only one glass, and also takes into consideration that some will have more than two glasses. Shame on them.
For example, assume you are expecting 20 guests and each will consume two 5-ounce pours, or 10 ounces. Multiply 20 guests by 10 ounces. The resulting 200 ounces is the estimated ounces needed for the gathering. Divide 200 by 25, because it is easier than dividing by 25.36, the number of ounces in a standard 750 ml bottle of wine. If following the math, you should have at least eight bottles of wine for 20 guests. I would add a few more bottles, as it is always better to overestimate than to underestimate.
Now that the math lesson is over, let’s turn our attention to the kinds of wine needed. For large gatherings, it is best to keep the wine selection simple by serving one brand of white and one brand of red. In our area, I would recommend buying slightly more red than white, because we seem to be a community of red wine drinkers.
Don’t buy box wines or gallon jugs to serve at a party. I know they are generally less expensive, but they are not recommended for parties because these formats are cumbersome to handle. If cost is an issue, there are plenty of pleasantly drinkable, inexpensive bottles of wine available at all local wine outlets.
For parties, it is good to seek out bottles with screw cap closures. That way you won’t have guests risking life and limb to open bottles with a corkscrew, nor will you be pulled from your hosting duties to open corked bottles. Another advantage of screw cap bottles at a party is that they can be opened as needed.
Do not offer an array of wines like you would find at typical wine tasting. This encourages guests to drink more, as most will want to try all that are offered, thus skewing the formula used to determine the amount of wine to buy. A single brand of chardonnay and a red blend should suffice nicely for most gatherings
If possible, hire help to pour or designate a friend to be in charge of pouring. Rent or borrow glassware to assure everyone will be drinking from the same-sized glass. Avoid extra large glasses as they encourage overpouring. I take a measuring cup filled with 5 ounces of water and pour into the wine glass before guests arrive, so the server will have an idea of what a 5-ounce pour looks like.
Inevitably, there will be wine spills. Be prepared for this eventuality. If red wine is spilled on a white tablecloth or on light colored clothing or carpet, first cover the spot with common table salt. Wait a few minutes for salt to draw out the stain, then douse the spot with anything clear and carbonated, like club soda or sparkling water. In a pinch, a clear sparkling wine will do, but I don’t recommend sacrificing the Dom Pérignon. If the spot remains stubborn, try household hydrogen peroxide.
Finally, don’t be discouraged from entertaining. Nothing brings a disparate group of friends together like festive food and wine.
Pat Kettles writes about wine and spirits every other Wednesday. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.