Wine Pairing on a Budget

If you are entertaining a crowd that frequently samples great wines and fine cuisine, sponsorship with a regional vintner or caterer might be the best course of action. If you are entertaining a group that just wants a pleasant wine pairing with incidental cuisine, there are numerous strategies to use that will satisfy almost everybody.

The first technique for a casual wine pairing is to work with themes. For instance, try highlighting an evening that features desert wines and fancy sweets. Don’t stress over the main course, but design dessert to be fresh, cool and memorable. Create a line of Rieslings and Gewrztraminer which call at least three different regions home. Buy one bottle per three guests and you will never run dry.

The second technique is to choose exclusively domestic blends. Places like Washington State, Oregon, Idaho, Vermont, Michigan and the Carolinas are producing wines that can be matched with any setting, or dish. Buying domestic will help you avoid high importation tariffs and enjoy reds and whites that are just as good as their European cousins. Canada also has a growing wine industry that is produced from fine cold climate crops. They are very reasonably priced and are beginning to saturate the world market.

Third, always remember to never leave out grocery shopping at major outlets. There is no need to shop for wine at fine stores if you want to stay within your monthly budget. Large grocery chains have incredible contracts with wine suppliers. You will be able to find very nice labels for extremely reasonable prices. Grocery stores will also have case purchasing incentives at discount. This is a fortuitous courtesy to always take advantage of when entertaining large groups.

It is also common for grocery stores to carry starter labels that are inexpensive and very pleasing. These massive market wine shelves are great places to find new, immaculate tasting wines for introductory prices. They are also at the same place you would buy ingredients for dinner, so take a few extra minutes to look around and save big.

Lastly, never be too concerned with how your guest’s physiology will react with the wines you serve. In most cases, if wine is the centerpiece of an evening, volume will be more important than brand, type, vintage or posh association. Keep a variety of room temperature and chilled wines, whites, reds and even an Angelica. In terms of expense, 80 percent to 90 percent of all the wines you would ever want to serve can be purchased for under $10 per bottle. There are a few greats that are much more expensive and a few tasty blends for less.

It is entirely possible to quench a large crowd with 6-10 bottles of enjoyable wine for under $100. Remember, as the host you have total control over how your guests approach and perceive what you serve. Be creative and never assume that you must please every palette all of the time. Construct a feature and theme you can afford and invite everyone to partake with a variety of wines to meet your entertaining needs. The libation can flow freely and still come in under budget every time!

Jennifer Willard is a personal finance blogger, and writes often about the merits of smart budgeting and debt management for Credit Guard, a non-profit credit counseling agency. Jennifer is a big believer that you can still get what you want out of any budget.

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