Wednesday, December 18, 2013

OK...So I Need to Take Wine to a Party...But What to Bring?

In my Weekly Wine Tip this week, I talked about bringing along wine when you are invited to a party.   There is nothing wrong with bringing a bottle of wine, or a six pack of beer as a token of appreciation for a party invitation. Even if the host told you not to worry about bringing something – it’s always OK to show appreciation.  If you were asked to bring your own beverage, or to contribute to the pool of beverages for the party – you would expect that the bottle or bottles you bring would be opened during the party. However, if you are just saying “thanks”, remember that the wine is a gift to the host, and they may or may not choose to open the bottle at the party.  In fact, it may be quite a compliment if the host would prefer to enjoy your gift at a later date, when they can really concentrate on the wine instead of on the festivities.

So… now you’ve decided to bring something… but what should you bring? In my tip I threw out Malbec as a good choice for a red wine, and a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc for a white…but why???
Malbec from Argentina is one of the great value wines in the world IMWO (in my wino opinion).  For around $10 you can get a very nice wine, easy drinking and fruity – which may entice even those who are not red wine lovers. For a bit more spend you can get a Reserve level wine for $15 or even a Grand Reserve level for around $20.  Malbec has not achieved the household name status that Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir enjoy, but you may just broaden the horizons of a potential wino by gifting something different.  Some great brands to look for include Finca Flichman, Cruz Alta, and Kaiken. 
Many Great Malbecs - This One is Awesome!
If you can’t find any of these, ask your local wine shop for some help – just tell them what you want and the amount you’d like to spend and they can hook you up with another good option.
Other safe bets in the red wine realm that are fairly easy drinking and should satisfy most red wine tastes include:
Spanish Rioja – Crianza.  At this level the wines have been aged only about a year, so remain fruity, food friendly, and easy drinking.  Consider a LAN Rioja Crianza.

California Merlot – Most Merlot’s in the $15-$20 range should be easy drinking as well.  Consider a Rodney Strong Sonoma County Merlot.
French Cotes du Rhone – It's a bit trickier to find a French wine that's "safe" to give as a gift. Many are made in an old world style that may turn off some infrequent wine drinkers. However, Cotes du Rhone wines are typically fruity and make a great gift. Consider this excellent one - Parallele 45 Cotes du Rhone.

If you know a bit more about the wine taste of your host – then going with something familiar is always a good option.  But don’t be afraid to try and make a selection that is in line with your host’s tastes, but may introduce them to something new. Once again your local wine store can help you out – just let them know the wine or wines your host usually drinks, and they can recommend something similar – but new to try.  I think the discovery of a new favorite is one of the most exciting aspects of wine drinking.  You may know your host only likes, what your host likes – so there is no need for adventure, just grab a bottle of the old standby – nothing wrong with that either!
For white wines, my tip recommending New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc was again about value.  Clean, crisp, fragrant, delicious wines are available in the $15 range.  Not everyone likes a big buttery Chardonnay, and Rieslings come in such a variety of styles from dry to sweet, with aromas anywhere from apples to gasoline, so even if you know someone likes Riesling, without more information it’s hard to pick something out as a gift.  Good brands of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc include: Kim Crawford, Cloudy Bay, Villa Maria, and Brancott.

If you want to provide a gift that is a little different, but still a safe bet, try one of these:
Spanish Albariño – From Galacia in Spain, one of those rare wines where the grape name is actually on the bottle. Very food friendly white from the land of food friendly wines. My go to white wine when I’m not sure which white wine to pair with a particular dish. Consider Martin Codax.

Austrian Gruner Veltliner – Fun to say (the “in” crowd, whoever they are, just call it “Gruvey”), fun to drink, very food friendly and very delicious.  Probably not many have ever had a wine from Austria, so definitely something a bit different.  Perhaps a chance to break out your best Arnold Schwarzenegger imitation?? You cannot go wrong with Hugl.

California Grenache Blanc - It may take a bit of work to find one of these, but I've tried a few of these recently and have been impressed with what California winemakers have been doing with this white varietal most commonly used in the Rhone region of France. Since some wineries are experimenting with this varietal in smaller batches - some may be a bit expensive, but keep hunting and you should be able to find something in a good gift price range. Consider Zaca Mesa.

I hope this helps you find a nice gift wine to help say thanks to your host.  It is the thought that counts, so don't stress out too much over what to buy - just avoid anything served out of a box or plastic bottle (screw caps are absolutely OK!) and enjoy the event. Put in a little time to find a good bottle for a gift - and you just may secure you spot on next year's invitation list!!!

Happy Holidays!!! Be Safe!!!

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