Have you ever been invited to a dinner party, volunteered to bring the wine, and then you realized you don’t really know what to bring? Since wine tastes are so wide-ranging, choosing for other people can feel a bit daunting! In order to please even picky palates, be sure to ask your host if they have any preferences and get a general idea of the menu. Once you have this information, here are ten wines that they’ll be talking about until the next party!
1. Wine for beginners
If there are newbies in the group, a German Riesling is a great introduction to wine. Although some can be too sweet, one with a higher ABV (alcohol by volume content) will be less sweet. Further, remember that Germans label their wines in great detail—if you spot the word “Trocken” or the letters “GG” on the label, you’ve found a dry wine. Reasonably priced at around $20.00 a bottle, the 2007 Gunderloch Riesling Kabinett “Jean Baptiste” is an excellent proof that a Riesling can successfully strike a balance between sweet and dry. This wine pairs well with spicy food, fish, salads, and pasta that have been dressed with olive oil.
2. Vegan wine
While it seems that wine contains no animal products because it comes from grapes, vegans can’t drink wines that have been exposed to gelatin and eggs during production. Thankfully, the California-based Clos LaChance Winery has created The Vegan Vine, offering both red and white options. The Chardonnay has the perfect balance of citrus, honeysuckle and even peach cobbler. pairing well with veggie lasagna and soups, while the berry and plums of the Cabernet Sauvignon go great with veggie burgers and chili. Of course, the meat-eaters in the group will love them too, and for $18.00 a bottle, you can afford to try them both!
3. An “off the wall” wine
If the menu calls for fish tacos, seafood or roasted chicken, Austria’s Grüner Veltliner is in order! This is a medium-bodied wine with a white peppery flavor that is tangy and refreshing. At around $35.00- $50.00 a bottle, a Weingut Knoll Gruner Veltliner Smaragd Vinothekfullung is not easy to pronounce and nor is it that easy to find. However, everyone will agree that it was well worth the effort!
4. Organic wine
California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation published data demonstrating that hundreds of thousands of pounds of chemicals used in non-organic vineyards have killed birds and damaged bee populations. In the US, these wines are made from organically grown grapes in vineyards where no pesticides or herbicides are used and no sulfites are added.
The jury is still out on whether sulfites cause the well-known wine headache, but up to 5% of asthmatics find their condition worsens in response to this preservative. For those who wish to err on the side of caution without sacrificing quality and taste, Frog’s Leap offers a wide array of choices. For around $30.00 try the Red Zinfandel—the cherry, fig, and huckleberry are ideal companions to hamburgers, traditional lasagna, and roast turkey.
5. Sparkling wine
The result of preventing CO2 from escaping during the fermentation process, sparkling wines offer an effervescent option, making them a great choice for celebrations. New Mexico’s Gruet Brut pairs apple and citrus for a complex wine with a slightly smoky finish. You’ll be delighted with how well it goes with cheese and strawberry shortcake while raising your glass to the $15.00 price tag!
6. A wine that won’t break the bank
In college, my friends and I would have spaghetti and pasta nights. A relatively inexpensive dish, we’d pair it with Caesar salad and a loaf of crusty bread, but I wish we’d had access to the $10.00 bottle of 2012 Gnarly Head Cabernet Sauvignon. With it’s cherry and peppercorn notes, its taste does nothing to give away its small price tag.
In the Champagne region of France, wine-makers follow the complex process of secondary fermentation in order to create champagne’s carbonation. For around $50.00, Veuve Clicquot’s Brut Yellow label offers a smooth texture with flavors of apple, white peach, and baked bread. Pair it with oysters or a chilled shrimp cocktail.
8. Worth the cost
While expensive wines are often a waste of money, the 100% varietal, single-vineyard Nickel & Nickel by the partners of Far Niente proves that some are worth the cost. Starting at $100.00, you won’t go wrong with any of the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignons. For example, the $225.00 State Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon, Yountville boasts chocolate, blueberry and earthy flavors that are perfect for steaks and roasts.
9. Vintage Port
Traditionally served at the end of a meal, Portugal’s sophisticated port wine is fortified with the grape spirit or brandy. Because these additions take place before fermentation, it is left with a distinctly sweet taste that pairs well with cheese and chocolate. Vintage port is not filtered before bottling—the resulting yeast builds up inside the bottle means it needs to be decanted. If you don’t mind a little work, it’s worth it. Offering violet notes and dark berry fruit taste, try the 2000 Niepoort Vintage Port for around $65.00.
10. Tawny port
Finally, Tawny port offers a longer shelf-life than vintage port, requires no decanting, and is aged in wood casks from ten to forty years. During the aging process, the oxidation creates the characteristic “tawny” color. Served slightly chilled, a 10-20-year-old tawny port is perfect with figs, baked apples, crème brûlée or dark chocolate truffles. I recommend Cockburn’s 20 Year Tawny port for around $40.00. Of course, I’m in agreement with those who believe that 30 and 40-year tawny ports should be paired with only the best company and great conversation!