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Wines to Bring to a Dinner Party

It’s always a nice idea to bring a bottle of something to a dinner party – either for the host to enjoy later, or for them to open to open up at the table during your meal. But what wine should you bring? How much should you spend? What’s appropriate? Where do you even begin?

Here are a few questions I always like to consider when buying wine for a dinner party, which helps prevent the whole stab-in-the-dark move at the bottle shop:

Who’s the host?

First and foremost, who is hosting? Are they novice wine drinkers? Are they relaxed and fun? Perhaps always tuned into the latest trends and cool restaurants? Ask the bottle shop staff what the latest wine craze is – these folks are probably up for a cool pét-nat, a Lambrusco, or a local garagiste wine. Or is your host a wine connoisseur? Even – dare I say – a wine snob (we all have that friend)? Opt for something more traditional. You don’t have to get the most expensive Burgundy in the shop, but they’ll likely appreciate a classic expression of a varietal from a certain terroir. As a generalisation, I’d say New World for the former group, Old World for the latter.

Always consider the host of the dinner party and their personality before choosing a bottle to gift them – if they are classic and traditional, go for something classic and traditional (i.e. a French Pinot Noir, an Italian Nebbiolo…) 

What are they cooking?

If you know what you’re going to be eating, this makes things a bit easier. Work backwards from the menu and choose some a wine that will suit the food and vibe. Something crisp and bright for a light, summer spread (i.e. seafood, salads), and something with more weight and plenty of tannins if you’ll be eating fatty or rich foods (i.e. steaks, roasts).

What’s the occasion?

If the dinner party is thrown around a special occasion (i.e. birthday, engagement, house warming), a sparkling wine is always a good choice. Which sparkling? See questions 1 – if the hosts are old school, Champagne is a safe bet. If their personality is a bit more youthful and hip, a less precious varietal is fine; something fresh, fun and even slightly sweet, such as a Cava, would be lovely.

Think about the occasion when buying a bottle for the dinner party host – if it’s a special celebration, a simply wrapped bottle of sparkling is always greatly appreciated

If you know none of the above?

When in doubt, go for something local. Probably red, light-medium bodied in the $25-$30 range… then again, that’s just what I tend to drink, so perhaps the real takeaway is, get them something you know you like!

Want to know how to order wines at a restaurant now? Check out this article. Or perhaps you want to brush up on what to ask in the bottle shop? Click here to learn more.

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Jill Haapaniemi

Jill is a lover of all things food and wine. As a food blogger and recipe developer, she is passionate about sharing meals with others, never without a bottle of something to enhance the experience. She spends her free time at her partner’s family winery just outside of Melbourne, and can usually be found drinking Oregon Pinot, wines from the Rhône Valley or Victorian Shiraz.
Jill Haapaniemi

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