What to Serve Picky Wine Drinkers at a Dinner Party
By Laura Fagan Published June 2022
However you want to refer to them – refined, fancy, snob, bougie - wine connoisseurs are simply passionate about what they drink. That can make serving these picky wine drinkers a stressful experience. We all know those guests that will turn up their nose at the ordinary or sulk if the wine sampling is underwhelming to their tastes. If you’re preparing for luxury label-seeking or name-dropping drinkers, borrow some strategies from our wine experts, Nathan Dale and Paul Quaglini, to help impress any well-sipped wine lover. So, if you know you have a wine snob among your dinner party RSVPs – don't worry! We’ve got some suggestions to win over picky palates along with some captivating labels to pour at your dinner party.
Strategies for Serving a Picky Wine Drinker
If you can’t take back the dinner invitation, you’ll have to find a wine which will capture the attention of a highbrow drinker. Nathan, a fellow, self-proclaimed wine snob, suggests surprising any dainty drinker, “The best thing to do is try to surprise them with something off the beaten-path and kind of esoteric.” Offering a label, varietal, or vintage that your guest has never sampled is going to create a novel drinking and pairing experience – and new is exciting! Most wine admirers delight in expanding their tasting library while exploring new flavors, age distinctions, or grape blends. Paul’s go-to strategy is to share a story with your wine selection. Storytelling is entertaining and engaging for guests – especially when the tale surrounds the wine being poured. Seek out a label that carries an interesting production or origin story – our in-store wine specialists would be happy to assist with this ask.
One big mistake that people make when trying to please a wine snob, Nathan reveals, is serving a wine with a highly recognized name or a hefty price tag. Sure, it will be received well, but those things won’t necessarily leave the impression you are striving for. Instead, Nathan feels that finding a boutique wine, an overlooked grape, or something from a lesser-known wine region might be the method to impress your choosy guest. It can expand their sphere of interest and introduce them to wines that they are not likely to encounter - like the selections below:
Paul’s First Suggestion | Cannonau
Surrau Naracu Cannanou di Sardegna is a very intriguing label from the island of Sardegna – the second largest isle in the Mediterranean Sea. The rich ruby colored wine is going to impress your dinner guests right away with aesthetics and a perfumed nose of blueberries, violet and spice. In flavor, the wine is a winning choice with delicious dark berry, lavender and licorice. But the bottle also offers an additional layer of interest. This wine gained attention after it was featured on an episode of Dr. Oz discussing its health benefits. Paul shares that Sardegna has the highest concentration of centenarians (a person who lives over a hundred years) in the entire world and, in part, that is attributed to the wine which is full of antioxidants and resveratrol. With that, Connonau makes the perfect wine to pour and toast to a long, healthy life.
Nathan’s First Suggestion | White Bordeaux
White Bordeaux is often undervalued or even passed over compared to other white wines. However, it is a selection that will surprise and please your picky drinker. Its overlooked appeal lies in its distinction and unique character. White Bordeaux is vinified from primarily sauvignon blanc and sémillon grapes and the two together create a curious wine. Nathan elaborates that, “Semillon is really cool because it is oily and heavy, so when it is co-fermented, or blended, with sauvignon blanc to make these white Boudreaux’s - you end up with a big wine with flavor and structure, and a ton of mineral content.” This wine expresses with attention-grabbing qualities and doesn’t drink like a New Zealand sauvignon blanc or taste like Napa – instead, it has an exceptional weight and exciting structure that is unlike other wines. White Bordeaux wines, like Rothschild Bordeaux Reserve White, present as a very academic wine which your dinner guests will love to sip and study.
Paul’s Second Suggestion | Sancerre
From Loire Valley, a region synonymous with French sauvignon blanc, Sancerre is an unforgettable and delicious wine. It is refreshing and crisp and full of flavor. Citrus, honeysuckle and herbs dominate the palate to create an unexpected drinking experience. Paul adds that grabbing a Sancerre from a great producer like Dom Bernard Fleuriet Et Fils Sancerre is not only budget-friendly but will charm the choosiest of wine drinkers.
Nathan’s Second Suggestion | Mencia
For a food-friendly red wine selection, Nathan prescribes a relatively unknown grape. Mencia is an indigenous grape to the Spanish Iberian Peninsula that produces a medium-bodied, aromatic wine similar to a gamay or pinot noir. It has a lighter expression for red, but it matures extremely well to balance ripe, dark berries and spice. It pairs beautifully with a wide variety of foods which will make it a great choice for the dinner table and to turn heads. Try Matilda Nieves Mencia if you’re looking for something to serve at your next dinner party
Whether you opt to surprise or tell a story with your wine selections - remember that it is ultimately thoughtfulness that wins over picky wine drinkers. Which means, you should avoid buying your dinner wines at a grocery store. This communicates convenience versus care and Paul suggests to, “Show that guest you put some effort into finding a special bottle of wine.” The time and attention you devote to selecting and serving wines of interest shows your intention to impress.