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When it comes to bringing wine to a dinner party or giving it as a gift, finding the perfect bottle of vino can be confusing. Here's how to pick a bottle everyone will love.

Jaime Ritter
October 18, 2017

Wine is always a great gift idea around the holidays or when you're a dinner party guest, but sometimes it can be difficult to pick out the perfect bottle. Some people are red drinkers, whereas some prefer white, and though it's supposed to be the thought that counts, you still want them to love the bottle you pick. Here's how to bring the best bottle of wine as a gift.

Don't stress too much about the perfect pairing.

Forget everything you thought you knew about wine. Food & Wine's 2017 Wine Guide says, "White wine with fish and red wine with meat seems to have been replaced with 'Drink whatever you like with whatever you want'. Both approaches have their advantages, but neither is absolute."

Do follow some general rules.

Lighter wines match lighter dishes, and richer wines pair well with richer dishes. For example, a light white wine pairs well with a piece of sole, whereas a rich red wine would be perfect with short ribs. But how can you tell how "rich" a wine is? A foolproof trick: think of wine like milk (seriously). Skim milk feels "lighter" in your mouth than whole, right? Wine is the same when it comes to determining mouthfeel. Try it out with your favorites to see what you prefer.

Acidic foods — like a spring salad with zesty vinaigrette —work best with similarly acidic wines: Food & Wine recommends a Sauvignon Blanc or Muscadet from France.

Consider salt and fat, too. Food & Wine says, "Salt in food will make tart wines seem less sour, softening the edge in tart wines; and fat in a dish—whether it's a well marbled steak or pasta with cream sauce—will make red wines seem lighter and taste less tannic.

 

 

Not sure what you're having? Pick a crowd-pleaser.

If you don't know what your host is cooking, or you're giving a bottle of wine to someone you don't know that well, picking a middle-of-the-road-wine—one that's not too rich, light, or tannic—is your best bet because it will pair with nearly everything. Food & Wine says, "For reds, Pinot Noir is a great option; for whites, choose an unoaked wine with good acidity, like a dry Reisling or a Pinot Gris from Oregon."

To chill or not to chill?

Etiquette expert Diane Gottsman says, "If the host asked you to bring wine, it should be served with the meal. If you bring it as a gift, that's for the host to enjoy another time. To avoid confusion, bring unchilled white wine as a gift, which implies it's not expected to be served immediately."