Have you ever received an invitation to a dinner party at a friend of a friend’s house, your boss’s house, your new neighbor’s house, or your new significant other’s parents’ house? You’d like to bring a bottle of wine but aren’t sure what the host’s tastes are in wine, or what the host will be serving. The following list provides some tips on what to bring and what not to bring:
1. A bottle of wine that you bring to a party is considered a gift for the hosts. It is usually safe to assume that the wine may not be opened that evening, so don’t be hurt if it isn’t. If you’re thinking of bringing a wine you’ve been dying to try, don’t. You may not get to that evening. Save it for when you’re the host, plan the meal to pair with it, and know who your guests will be and what they like. That said, try to select a wine versatile enough that, if it is opened, it should complement the host’s choices.
2. While bringing a rare or expensive wine to impress may seem good a good idea, it is never wise to overshadow the hosts’ wine selections. This is their event; let their choices shine.
3. Since you probably don’t know most of the other attendees, it is best not to bring something esoteric or unusual. Save the "long maceration, skin-fermented Pinot Gris that was aged in a handmade clay amphora underground for a minimum of five years" for another day.
4. Consider bringing a bottle of sparkling wine to the event. Sparkling wines do pair well with certain foods, but they make a great aperitif wine to tickle everyone’s palate before the evening’s events unfold. They also provide a great opportunity to toast your hosts and thank them for the invitation. There are may different types of sparkling wines out there from which to choose. Consider bringing a bottle of brut (dry but not ultra-drying) non-vintage Champagne, Crémant (made in same method as Champagne but made physically outside of the Champagne region of France) or Cava (also made via the Champagne method with a second fermentation in bottle).
5. If you decided to bring a white wine, consider choices other than Chardonnay. Chardonnay is a polarizing grape as some people believe in drinking “ABC” (Anything But Chardonnay), and those who do fancy Chardonnay may be at the extremes of style—the stainless steel versus the butter oaked versions. It is best to stick to a nice crisp white wine like Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadet (from France) or Pinot Gris (from France).
6. Rosé can be a great choice to bring to a party as it can be a middle ground between white wine and red wine and satisfy drinkers of either category. Rosés are usually wines made from red grapes where the fruit juice has some limited contact with the grape skins. The wine picks up some light color, flavor, weight and tannin from this contact. Rosés usually make a great aperitif and usually pair well with food of many styles.
7. When it comes to red, a bright, light and fruity wine might please a broad range of drinkers. A suggestion would be to bring a Beaujolais but not a Beaujolais Nouveau. Nouveau is a made from Gamay in a specific style of winemaking called “carbonic maceration” that produces a wine with very little tannin along with very fruity flavors like banana, grape, strawberry, or fig, which can even be reminiscent of cotton candy. Beaujolais without the Nouveau is also made from Gamay and the wines are low in tannin, bright and have aromas and flavors of berries and cherries. Another solid choice would be a Pinot Noir from the US, which is usually a consistent, predictable wine.
8. And finally, consider bringing a dessert wine or digestif to aid in digestion after a big meal. The wine does not have to pair with the host’s dessert choice, but it can pair with delightful post-dinner conversation with your hosts and the other guests. Suggestions would certainly include a dessert Muscat (Muscat de Beaumes de Venise or Muscat de Rivesaltes), Oloroso Sherry, Tawny Port, or Madeira.