The Only Party Better Than a Potluck

June 18, 2015

We may have food down cold, but wine? This is where we'll conquer it. Join us; we don't want to drink alone. 

Today: Throw a wine tasting party. It's like a potluck, but better—and with alcohol. 

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There are three things to love about potluck dinner parties:

  1. The setup is easy.
  2. Everyone feels involved and participates.
  3. No one person is responsible for footing the whole bill. 

This summer, why not extend the idea of a potluck dinner to a wine tasting party? You prepare the food; your friends each bring a favorite bottle of wine. Plus, you get to add two big advantages to that potluck love list: You don’t need to worry about which wines to pair with the food and when each person brings a bottle of wine, a lively, interesting conversation topic is built in. 

Best of all, this kind of wine party is the ultimate place for crowd-sourced wine recommendations. If your friend likes a wine, then you’re likely to try it (and like it), too. Having a wine potluck is as simple as bringing your crowd together, but here are a few tips:

First, decide on the menu and send it to guests ahead of time.
Decide which dishes to prepare when you’re “flying blind” in terms of the wine—any color and style of wine might walk through the door. How could you possibly know what food to put out? This is when you turn to tried-and-true techniques from experts like Annette Joseph. Joseph, author of Picture Perfect Parties, has developed some guidelines for foods to make (and avoid) that take the guesswork out of wine pairing. 

First of all, keep it simple. A charcuterie platter is a good place to start, since the range of textures and flavors provide a wide margin for successful pairings. If you’re going to branch out a little further, remember to pare down the seasoning. Bruschetta with mild-flavored toppings is a great choice, as are some hard cheeses like Parmesan and Pecorino. Certain nuts, like almonds, are also a safe bet. Offer a simple dessert, like biscotti, that’s well-suited to sweeter wines (think Vin Santo or Sauternes). 

Stay away from foods that are notoriously hard to pair, advises Joseph. Hummus, asparagus, concentrated condiments like preserves, and flavored honey are all no-gos. Some common fruits and vegetables are best avoided, too, like raspberries—which are too sweet—and radishes with butter, whose flavors and textures are difficult to pair.

Then invite each guest to bring a bottle of their favorite wine.
They don’t need to worry about whether the wine “matches” with what you’ve decided to serve—there will naturally be a mix of different styles and flavors, but you'll be surprised how versatile many wines, and many foods, can be.

Don't forget the supplies.
Make labels and pens available at the entrance so each guest can label their bottle of wine with their name. (Invite them to include a word or two about why the wine is their favorite or why they wanted to share it with the group.) Tags that can be tied around the necks of the bottles work well for this. To hold the wine during the party, Joseph recommends big galvanized buckets in a central location—they make the wine easily accessible for guests to reach and pour. And of course, you'll need an abundance of glasses for sampling and refills.

What are your favorite tips for a successful wine party? Tell us in the comments below!


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Cathy Huyghe

Written by: Cathy Huyghe

Best advice I've ever heard regarding wine? "Just drink the stuff."