Ordering the wine for a group is not a job I like to be honest; trying to negotiate and please the tastes of everyone - from self-confessed wine snobs to those who wouldn’t know a Bordeaux from a Burgundy.
In these instances, it’s simply not worth spending beyond the mid-range price bracket; anything more expensive will simply be lost on some, and probably still criticised by others.
So, staying in the affordable range, what are the keys wines to be looking out for?
Top choice; Gavi (or Gavi di Gavi preferably) is a great go-to wine. Dry and medium bodied, with quince and green almond notes. Substance and character, pretty, yet not overly, and un-oaked. It’s like the reliable friend you invite to dinner who you know you can sit by anyone without risk of conflict. Usually offers very good value too – expect to pay in the £30-£40 bracket for a very decent offering.
Back up choice; Another solid choice is a Macon-Villages, or any wine from the Maconnais. Whilst they can vary in price, a Macon-Villages around £35+ mark should be delivering a supple, rounded wine with ripe stone fruits and subtle richness. Not overpowering, but certainly a wine with presence and personality.
From GrapeSmith: White (Gavi di Gavi) https://bit.ly/2rGsLJI
Top choice; With red wines, it’s pretty hard to beat a good Cotes du Rhone Villages. These southern French blends bring together the character of several grape varieties, resulting in something harmonious and balanced. Black and red berries with a touch of herbal spice and pepper. Soft yet structured, they work happily across all European cuisines. A wine you get to know a little better over an evening and find you have made a buddy for life. £30-35 + for a quality expression.
Back up choice; Rioja Crianza. There is SO much Rioja made it can be bit of a minefield. Crianza level wines ensure a little (but not too much) oak-ageing, which brings deep, rich notes to the wine and the classic flavours of vanilla and coconut so indicative of the style. In addition, Crianza wines (and those of Reserva and Gran Reserva) use better quality fruit to ensure ageability. Comforting and enveloping, good Rioja is hard not to like. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more enjoyable wine for around £40.
From Grapesmith: Red (Cotes du Rhone Villages)
And let us not forget… The House Wine! In a decent restaurant, this is the often the one that proprietors work hardest to get right. Many of us choose the ‘second-least expensive’ wine on the list when unsure, but the house wine works on the same ‘likeability’ principles outlined above, albeit perhaps on a more cost-driven basis. However, these are safe bets for inoffensive, drinkable, amenable wines that won’t perhaps give you any lasting memories but shouldn’t give you nightmares either.