‘Tis the season for twinkling lights, cozy nights, and bubbly. Sparkling wine can and should be enjoyed year-round (not just on New Year’s and other special occasions), but we can’t deny that it’s especially primed for the holiday season. So, as you start to plan your annual festivities, why not throw a sparkling wine-themed party?
Nobody does it better than Napa’s iconic chateau, Domaine Carneros, so we asked them for some tips on throwing the perfect sparkling soirée that’s equal parts elegant, easy, and fun. Channel your inner Audrey Hepburn and follow these six easy steps to a bubbly good time.
The wine is obviously the most crucial component to your sparkling wine party and selecting a variety will not only ensure that you have something for everyone, but also encourage your guests to explore different styles of sparkling wine.
You don’t have to splurge on expensive French Champagnes. High quality sparkling wines can be found at a much more approachable price point from wineries like Domaine Carneros, which employ the same method traditionelle (meaning the wine undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle) as used by French Champagne houses.
Choose wines that are both dry (like a Brut) and sweet (like a Demi-sec), or sparklings made with different grape varieties. For example, Blanc de Blancs, like Domaine Carneros’ Le Rêve, are crafted with 100 percent chardonnay grapes, while Blanc De Noirs are made solely with pinot noir grapes. Others are blends. This Sparkling Classics trio is a great place to start.
For a true party-pleaser, throw a late-disgorged sparkling wine into the mix. These wines spend more time aging on the lees (yeast) in the bottle, which results in an added complexity and rich, nutty flavors.
When considering how much wine to purchase for your party, keep in mind that each bottle of sparkling wine yields about eight glasses. Expect each guest to have at least one drink per hour, so multiply your guest count by the number of hours your get-together will run, then divide that number by eight. You can also use an online drink calculator, like this one from Evite.
It doesn’t hurt to add a few extra bottles. Nothing stops a good time quicker than a wine shortage and if you have leftovers, you get to drink it.
Every good party needs food, but don’t feel the need to go overboard. The goal is to enjoy yourself and engage with your guests — not spend your entire soirée stuck in the kitchen — so keep it simple and choose small bites or appetizers that can be prepared quickly with little to no cooking time.
Luckily, sparkling wine is one of the easiest wines to pair food with. It truly goes well with almost anything, so you don’t need to stress over conflicting flavors. Cheese and charcuterie never fail, but popcorn is another foolproof option that’s affordable, quick and easy, fun, and as a bonus, on theme with the popping of corks. Serve with an array of seasonings so that party-goers can experiment with different pairings.
But if you really want to throw your guests a curveball, Asian food goes surprisingly well with sparkling wine — so much so that Domaine Carneros even built a food and wine experience with Asian bites, offered at their Carneros winery. Order takeout from your favorite, local spot, plate it, and no one will know that their host wasn’t slaving away in the kitchen all day.
Some people think that you need a special shape of glass for each type of wine, but Domaine Carneros’ CEO and founding winemaker Eileen Crane doesn’t believe in taking things so seriously. While flutes or coupes (shallow bowls) are traditionally used for sparkling wine, a standard wine glass will work just fine. Or, mix and match your glassware to keep things light and fun.
Domaine Carneros sells a set of six stemless, gold-embossed flutes in a mix of patterns that come with a bottle of Brut Rosé. Or, head over to the WineCountry Shop for a variety of flutes and gifts for Champagne lovers. You may also consider picking up some wine glass charms to help your guests keep track of their glasses. This will save you time on dishes later.
You can keep it simple when it comes to décor too. Fresh flowers and gold and silver table confetti go a long way to making a party pop, but for something unique that is sure to delight your guests, freeze fresh cut roses or your favorite flower into an ice tray and then place these flower ice cubes in your chiller or ice bucket. When your friends go to refresh their glass, they’ll be greeted by this beautiful, unexpected surprise. Check out the easy, step-by-step recipe here.
Place tasting score cards by the wine (with pens) and encourage your guests to fill them out. These are a great tool for sparking conversations and Domaine Carneros has even designed these playful ones, which you can print right from your home computer for free. The tasting score cards will prompt your guests to sip thoughtfully — considering the colors, aromas, and flavors of each wine — and then discuss and debate their favorites with other party guests.
The second-most important ingredient to your wine party, after the sparkling wine, is ice. Buy a lot of it, so that you don’t risk running out. Bubbly simply doesn’t taste good warm.
Make sure you have multiple wine chillers or ice buckets on hand so that you can keep all of your wines cold at once. Check out this gorgeous wine chiller from Domaine Carneros, which keeps your bottle cold for up to nine hours (not that it’ll last that long) and makes a statement in your home. A large galvanized tub works too, and if you want to go the most affordable route, simply use your kitchen sink! Scrub it clean, fill it with ice, and slide the bottles in.
Put your wine on ice long before your guests arrive, but if you’re running late or forget, there is an easy hack for chilling your wine in half the time. Add a few tablespoons of salt to your ice bucket, stir it occasionally, and the bottle will be ready to pop in about 15 – 20 minutes.
Et voila! Now that you have all the essential tips for throwing the perfect sparkling wine party, it’s time to pop those corks and share your sparkling party experience by tagging @domainecarneros.