How much wine?
Getting closer to the party!
Here are my numbers:
-20 guests, probably 12 men, 8 women
-appetizers followed by casual dinner, buffet style
-mains are beef tenderloin and chicken
I was just informed that there will be a limo service, so people will be encouraged to leave the car at home, which leads to my question: how much wine to buy?!!! There will also be beer and some liquor. This limo thing changes everything, doesn't it?!!!!!!!!!!!!
I would say a bottle per person, 'cause running out is a bad thing. But yes knowing your crowd and how many of them are wine drinkers is key. Also, how long is the party going on? People will probably have a drink or two before dinner, one or two with dinner, and what happens after??. If the theory is that most people can have one drink an hour and stay within legal sobriety limits, a big question is how late the event might run. Hanging out drinking until the wee hours may end up at 6 or more drinks/person. I've been to many a dinner party where I fully intended to have no more than 2 glasses of wine and by the end of the night it was more like 5, just because it was there and everyone was jovial and things ran into the night.
Will your guests bring anything to drink themselves? If yes, then I agree with the above recommendations. There are other threads on chow about opening wine that guests have brought for etiquette.
Also, Some liquor stores allow you to return what you dont drink. On the risk of being crass, after 1/2 a bottle each, bring out the cheap stuff! :)
My Bordelais friend uses the following formula: 1 bottle champagne per person, 1 bottle of white per two people and one bottle of red per person. It excludes after dinner drinks (armagnac, a prune, bourbon etc) but it's also a formula which has people dropping like flies since he generally doesn't offer water.
Do you know the preferences of your guests? If not, I'd suggest something like 5 bottles of a sparkler, 12-14 reds (a heavier one and a lighter one) and 10 whites. If you're having cheese and desserts, bump up the whites.
I would buy 2 cases. Your wine shop or liquor store should give you a discount on case lots. If you don't know your group, I'd buy one case of each, white and red. You might want to start the festivities with a welcome toast of the bubbly since it seems they are all arriving at the same time. Then move on to the red, white, beer, etc. If the toast appeals to you, I'd buy 4 sparkling.