Often in life, it’s the things we love most that can be the most frustrating. As a little girl, I’m sure my wife must have prayed to find a man who could cross only one eye, and yet she becomes frustrated when after a passionate kiss, she opens her eyes to find one eye looking longingly back at her and the other pinned against my nose. I tell her she looks “twice as beautiful with my eyes crossed,” but that rarely helps ease her frustration.
And so it is with wine. The thing I love most about wine is the communal aspect. It comes in large bottles designed for sharing with people. Yet, trying to find a bottle to please everyone at your party can become a headache.
So here are some tips:
Go Light. When people say they don’t like red wines, they often cite the bitterness caused by the tannins. (Tannins are also found in tea, which can lead to that mouth-puckering bitterness when over-steeped.) Pinot Noirs and other grapes like, Gamay (found in Beaujolais), are lower in tannins. Look for California Pinot Noirs which tend to be more fruit-forward then their European counterparts.
Go Old. As vines get older, they produce less fruit. So, the fruit they do produce tends to be concentrated with flavor. Wineries are proud of these wines and will often put “old vines” on the label. Now here’s the trick, old vines can produce big, bold reds which can be a turn off to some of your guests, so try to find old vine wines that have an alcohol level around 13.5%. These are usually medium-bodied fruit-driven wines with soft tannins.
Pinot Gris- Pinot Gris, or Pinot Grigio as it is called in Italy, is a crowd-pleaser. Pinot Gris offers flavors of lemon and lime, along with green apple and stone fruits. It isn’t as acidic as Sauvignon Blanc, or as big or oaky as a Chardonnay. There’s a lot to like, and not much to dislike.
Note: While they are the same grape, Pinot Grigios typically have more subdued fruit.
For the Sweet Drinkers- If you have one sweet drinker in the bunch, while everyone else enjoys dry wines, things just got complicated. If you don’t mind going a little sweeter than what you would typically drink, try a German Riesling Kabinett. This should have enough sweetness to appease your guest, but have enough acidity to cut through the sweetness. Otherwise, just stick with the pinot gris, chances are by the end of the second glass, they will like it too.
One last thing, if you are asking people to try a wine that they wouldn’t drink on their own. Prepare them. When I was little my dad told me to close my eyes and open my mouth. He gave me an olive. I love olives, but I was expecting candy, and that olive tasted awful. Taste the wine ahead of time, pick out the prevailing fruit, then as you hand them a glass, say “This is so good, it tastes like ______.” If a person is used to drinking something sweet, many wines come across as tart or bitter, so their immediate reaction will be one of disgust. By saying “This tastes like green apple” it gives them some context for what they are about to taste. I mean, who doesn’t like green apples?
Final tip, when all else fails, make Sangria.
Eric Wright is currently living his dream, running The Wine Basket – a speciality wine and beer shop in Vienna, WV. He previously worked in a Nashville wine shop for a WV wine distributor. He enjoys watching “Dateline Mysteries” and eating Cheesy Potato Burritos sans sour cream. He dislikes racism and eating Cheesy Potato Burritos with sour cream.
Photography by the amazing Liv Hefner