How to Choose the Best Wine for Book Club

Marissa A. Ross, author of Wine. All the Time., tells us how to find a wine everyone will like—even if they hated the book.

It’s that time of the month again: BOOK CLUB. Regardless of whether everyone in the group finished the novel, you know what you all will be finishing: BOTTLES OF WINE. As someone who has admittedly been both the annoyed host as well as the annoying guest of a wine-fueled book club meeting, here are my best tips on choosing a great wine for your next gathering of minds over literature’s latest spines.

Don’t Pick a Bottle to Reflect the Book

It’s easy to fall into the trap to try to pick out a wine that somehow reflects upon the book. Unless it’s a book that talks about a specific wine, do not try to project the book onto a wine. There are already going to be enough opinions flying over the universal themes and character motivations, you don’t need to argue with Sharon about whether or not they would have been drinking Burgundy in Nazi-occupied France while discussing The Nightingale.

Do Pick a Versatile Crowd Pleaser

Big, bold wines like tannic reds or heavily oaked whites can be polarizing, as well as palate crushing. Go for something light and fun that is easy to drink on its own, and is easily paired with snack spreads or dinner. Light, juicy red wines like Gamay, Zweigelt, and Pinot Noir as well as zesty white wines like Pinot Grigio, Grüner Veltliner and Vinho Verde are all delicious choices that you can enjoy no matter if you’re meeting on the couch or around the dinner table. And everyone loves rosé, so there’s that.

Stay Away from Cheap Sparkling Wine

It may seem economical to grab an armful of cheap sparkling wine, but serving bottles of it will turn your book club into an Aspirin party. Most sparkling wine is made with two fermentations. The first fermentation is when the yeast eats the sugar, converting it to alcohol. The second fermentation is to create carbon dioxide and make the wine bubbly. The problem is they do that by adding more sugar and yeast, which many people are sensitive to. If you want to do sparkling wine, go for a Pétillant Naturel. These natural sparkling wines only go through one fermentation and don’t have any of the extra added stuff that makes the-morning-after-book-clubs not so fun.

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Stay on Track with Low Alcohol Percentages

Sometimes you will be having a very productive book club meeting, and then suddenly you realize everyone has been talking about politics or Jim’s wedding reception for the last hour. Keep people focused (and coherent!) by choosing wines with low alcohol percentages. The ABV (alcohol by volume) percentage is labeled on wine by law. Wines that are in the 11%-13% range are good for drinking and enjoying without getting wasted, whereas high ABV wines in the 14%-16% range should be avoided, unless you’re into the prospect of Book Club turning into Fight Club over Zadie Smith.

Consult the Host

If you’re a guest and you’re unsure of what to bring, ask the host if they have a particular wine they would like or are already serving. Not only does it take some pressure off you in the wine shop, but it’s also a considerate gesture any host is happy to receive.

Talk to Your Guests

If you’re the host and you want your guests to bring a specific wine, tell them! At the end of the email or text inviting them over, just add a quick, “And if you’d like to bring wine, it’d be great if you could contribute a bottle of…” This way you don’t end up with a whole refrigerator full of White Zinfandel you’re never going to drink.

 When in Doubt, Take a Wine You Love

The best part about wine is sharing it with others. If you can’t decide on what wine to take to book club, take a wine you love. Even if everyone else doesn’t love it, your passion and excitement over it will bring extra positive energy to the evening. Just be careful not to turn book club into wine club. This is mostly a note to myself, who gets very excited about wines and want to tell people all about them, when everyone else is like, “Dude, just please read the damn passage.”


Featured image: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock.com; Author Photo by Andy J. Scott

MARISSA A. ROSS is contributing editor and official wine columnist for Bon Appétit magazine. Her column “Unfiltered” appears monthly in their print issue. Marissa began blogging about wine in 2012 and has since been named one of Wine Enthusiast‘s 40 Under 40, served as Man Repeller’s “go-to wine expert,” was named “Coach of the Month” by Elle magazine, and was featured in Food & Wine’s “Guide to the Digital Wine Universe.” Her blog, Wine. All the Time., has earned her Editor’s Choice and Reader’s Choice awards for “Best Wine Coverage” at the Saveur Blog Awards. She is from Upland, CA.

About MARISSA A. ROSS

MARISSA A. ROSS is contributing editor and official wine columnist for Bon Appétit magazine. Her column “Unfiltered” appears monthly in their print issue. Marissa began blogging about wine in 2012 and has since been named one of Wine Enthusiast‘s 40 Under 40, served as Man Repeller’s “go-to wine expert,” was named “Coach of the Month” by Elle magazine, and was featured in Food & Wine’s “Guide to the Digital Wine Universe.” Her blog, Wine. All the Time., has earned her Editor’s Choice and Reader’s Choice awards for “Best Wine Coverage” at the Saveur Blog Awards. She is from Upland, CA.

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