Whether you’re hosting an intimate dinner party for four or a lavish reception for fifty, making sure you’ve got enough wine to go around (and then some) should be high on your party-planning agenda. But it can be tricky second-guessing how much you’ll need, especially when there are so many variables at play, such as guests’ colour preferences, whether other beverages will be served, the role of food during proceedings, and so on.
A standard bottle of wine is 750ml. Most schools of etiquette suggest a serving size of 150ml, so technically, that’s five glasses per bottle. But when the good times are flowing, who’s going to stick to rigid measurements? Plus the host deserves an extra splash or two. For these reasons, it’s best to assume that a single bottle contains four glasses.
Now, some people will happily stick to a single glass throughout the entire evening, others will happily polish off a bottle or more themselves. It’s almost impossible to know ahead of time how much anyone will drink, but it’s a safe bet to budget at least one bottle of wine per person. It’s certainly not going to be a problem if you end up with a few bottles leftover for your own consumption at a later date!
Red or white?
If you’re serving wine alongside a meal or cheeseboard, it’s easier to determine ahead of time which wines you’ll need most of (reds are typically served with a meaty main, sweet whites with dessert, and so on). But if you’re holding a drinks-only affair, it’s not as straightforward as simply dividing the choices 50/50 for the anticipated number of guests.
You need to build in an element of overkill in case everyone wants a particular choice. That means enough red for 60% of the crowd, and enough white for 60% – you’ll likely end up with a few bottles leftover, but again, that’s hardly a problem!
How many varieties?
If you’re having a dinner party, you’ll probably want to pair the wine with the food on offer – ditto a cheese and wine gathering. For a straightforward drinks affair, it’s a good idea to have a few options on offer for both reds and whites. A dry Sauvignon Blanc, a sweet Riesling and a buttery Chardonnay will cover all tastes for white, while a spicy Malbec, a fruity Merlot and a full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon are eminently drinkable reds both on their own and with a variety of cheeses and hors d’oeuvres.
Fizz, beer and spirits
Depending on the nature of your party, you might want to offer a number of alternatives to wine as well, or at least one or two special drinks, such as a fruit punch or mulled wine on arrival, or glass of fizz for toasting.
If you plan on also offering beer and spirits throughout the evening, you can comfortably reduce the ‘bottle per person’ rule to half a bottle per person – unless of course your event is a wine tasting party, then the focus should absolutely remain on the vino (and plenty of it!).