Serving wine? Make it easy with our smart buying guide.

Writer Natalie MacLean

2007 Cookoothama Cabernet Merlot, New South Wales, Australia ($14)
Terrific balance in this full-bodied, tasty red with rich, notes of plums and black raspberries.
Pair with:  Roast Beef, Tomato, and Red Onion Sandwich with Peppery Balsamic Vinaigrette Sauce

2007 Ruffino Fonte Al Sole, Tuscany, Italy ($13)
The grapes are grown in sun-drenched Tuscany. Al sole means “sourced from the sun.” Lovely berry ripeness with a tangy finish. A blend of 40% Sangiovese and 60% Cabernet Sauvignon to produce a medium-bodied, supple wine. Great with chicken or tuna.
Pair with:  Grilled Tuna Steaks with Spiced Soy Glaze

2008 Canaletto Nero D’avola Merlot, I.G.T., Sicily, Italy ($12)
A gorgeously plummy-rich wine with supple layers of blackberries and dark spices. Full-bodied and balanced with a savory note on the finish.
Pair with:  Marinated Pepper-Crusted Beef Tenderloin

2008 Tapeña Tempranillo, Tierra de Castilla, Spain ($8)
Made from 100% Tempranillo grapes. A luscious wine that rolls with ripe black plum flavor. Lovely notes of dark chocolate on the end. Full-bodied.
Pair with:  Ginger-Lime Marinated Shrimp Kebabs with Flank Steak and Cilantro Butter

2007 Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon California Collection, United States ($10)
An incredible price for this tasty, plummy, supple red! Layers of flavor make it a sure-fire party pleaser.
Pair with:  Côtes de Boeuf with Herb Butter

2005 Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs, California ($37)
2008 Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label Champagne, France ($40)
1999 Perrier-Jouët Fleur de Champagne, France ($175)

Count on one drink per guest per hour for a cocktail party. For a sit-down dinner or overnight guests, plan on serving up to two drinks per hour. A standard 750-ml bottle of bubbly will give you five generous flute glass servings; a still table wine, four glasses. Older guests often prefer spirits, while younger drinkers favor wine and spritzers. Remember to provide plenty of nonalcoholic beverages, such as sparkling water and fruit juice.

Your soirée―not your Champagne corks―should be a blast. Keep these tips in mind when serving sparkling wine.
• Chill thoroughly before opening―20 minutes in ice water works best, but an hour in the fridge will do, too.
• Remove the foil and wire cage from the cork.
• To open, keep one hand firmly on the cork while using the other to turn the bottle slowly. No corkscrews are needed because it’s the bottle, rather than the cork, that’s being turned. (Nervous? Cover the cork with a dish towel before turning the bottle.) The pressure inside the bottle will start to push the cork out. The cork should come out with a sigh rather than a pop.
• Serve Champagne or sparkling wine in flutes―tall, narrow glasses―rather than broad-brimmed wine goblets to preserve the fizz and concentrate the aromas.
• A Champagne stopper preserves bubbly for several days. The carbon dioxide in the wine is a natural barrier to oxidation.

Natalie MacLean, author of the bestseller Red, White, and Drunk All Over (Bloomsbury, 2007), publishes a free wine newsletter at