The Go-To Wines To Bring To Your Next Potluck

If you've been tasked with bringing a few bottles of wine to a potluck — and are tempted to grab the first wine you spot because you're overwhelmed by the options — don't worry. We're here to help you find that perfect bottle. Because really, who is more beloved at a potluck than the person who shows up with wine?

When choosing a wine for a potluck, you'll want to find a bottle that checks three important boxes: It should be approachable but not boring, light and bright enough to work well with a variety of dishes, and affordable enough that you can pick up multiple bottles — a potluck is a dinner for a crowd, after all.

No winemaking region does all this quite like the Loire Valley. This picturesque region runs from west to east across central France, starting at the Atlantic Ocean near Nantes and ending east of Orléans. The Loire combines ocean influence, mild weather, and mineral-rich soil into world-renowned, crowd-pleasing varieties. But Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Champagne get all the name recognition, which means Loire Valley wines fly a bit under the radar and can make it to your table at a much lower price point. If that's not the perfect recipe for a potluck wine, we don't know what else is. Here's what to buy.

You can't go wrong with a balanced red wine

When choosing red wine for a potluck, look for something light- or medium-bodied, with a good balance between fruit flavors, tannins, and acidity. You want a wine that will hold up to food (especially since holiday potlucks often include rich, indulgent dishes), but that won't overpower what you're eating. Cabernet Franc and Gamay, two common red grapes in the Loire Valley, do all that and more. These Pinot Noir alternatives can be enjoyed young — meaning they're more affordable than bottles that benefit from age, and they're a little more interesting than that standard bottle of French red wine we've all had before.

On the nose, Cab Franc has a fragrance of raspberries and red fruits, as well as a green note of herbs or green bell pepper. The tart fruit continues on the palate, along with a mineral aspect from the Loire Valley's soil. Young Cab Francs are nicely acidic and mildly tannic, giving the wine great structure and making it perfect with roasted meats or rich casseroles.

Gamay is commonly associated with Beaujolais, but it is also grown in the Loire Valley. More fruity and floral than Cabernet Franc, a glass of Gamay smells of red fruits and aromatic flowers like violets and peonies — a fragrance you'll get even with holiday aromas wafting through the air. It is light and acidic on the palate, and the tart red fruit flavors will brighten your meal just like a serving of bright cranberry sauce.

Choose white wines that stand up to the weather and the menu

When it comes to winter whites, you'll want to serve a wine that has enough richness and depth to combat the cold outside but is still bright enough to be an easy pairing with your potluck spread. When you're shopping for Loire Valley white wines, look for Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc.

Sauvignon Blanc is often seen as a summer sipper, but if you opt for a bottle from the Loire Valley, you'll wind up with a wine that can be put on your holiday table. Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley is fruity and acidic, with enough minerality to balance out the peach and melon notes. It also features some fantastic herbal notes that will tie in with flavors of rosemary and thyme. Serve this one with appetizers, a cheese board, or roast turkey.

For something with a little more body, look to Chenin Blanc. This wine mirrors the acidity and brightness of Sauvignon Blanc, with a slightly richer mouthfeel akin to an unoaked Chardonnay. The fruit notes are more yellow than green (think pear and Golden Delicious apples). And this grape is incredibly diverse. Depending on when it is picked and how it is produced, Chenin Blanc can go from zingy and dry to sweeter and velvety. Pop this wine on the table with the main course, as it can handle fattier, more indulgent dishes like roast pork or creamy potatoes.

Sparkling wines add a festive touch to any potluck

Every party needs a bit of bubbly, but that doesn't mean you need to shell out the big bucks for Champagne. Thankfully, sparkling wines coming out of the Loire Valley are every bit as delicious — and will give you a lot of bang for your buck.

Vouvray comes from the Touraine district in the center of the Loire Valley and is made with Chenin Blanc grapes. The still varieties are delicious, but the sparkling is noteworthy. It is most often produced using the methode traditionelle (the same used to make Champagne) and features delicate, voluminous bubbles bursting with pear, apple, and honeysuckle aromas. Grab a brut, or dry, bottle for a pre-dinner toast, or opt for demi-sec as a sweet accompaniment to dessert.

Crémant de Loire is a broader category of sparkling wines from the region. While sparkling Vouvray must be Chenin Blanc, Crémant de Loire can include Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Grolleau Gris & Noir, Pineau d'Aunis, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc. This long list of grapes means there is a lot of exciting variety to be found — and some great value. With so many choices, shop for Crémant de Loire with a drinking experience in mind (Before or after dinner? Dry or sweet? White or rosé?), and don't be afraid to ask for help.