How to Pick the Perfect Bottle of Wine For Every Type of Invite

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Young Asian woman walking through liquor aisle and choosing a bottle of red wine from the shelf in supermarket

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If you’re hosting or heading to a gathering soon, you may be looking for a bottle of wine to enjoy with your friends, family, or colleagues. In a pinch, almost anything you grab off the shelf will do, but there’s something special about pairing your wine — not just according to the food you’ll be eating, but to the vibe of the occasion. 

Don’t consider yourself a wine expert? We’ve got you covered. We talked to a sommelier and below are what he said are the best types of wine to bring to any get-together.

Looking for a nice bottle to crack open at Christmas, Thanksgiving, or Hanukkah dinner? Matt Bostick, sommelier at Llano Estacado Winery in Lubbock, Texas, recommends choosing a versatile red blend that pairs well with lots of different protein-based main dishes but doesn’t overpower sides. 

“You don’t want something too bold,” he says. He recommends a cabernet- or grenache-based blend. If you’d prefer white (or you’re bringing two bottles), go with an unoaked chardonnay or viognier, which Bostick says is just as versatile no matter what you’re eating. 

Bubbles, traditionally, signify celebration — that’s why people love to bring sparkling wine for New Year’s Eve. Bostick recommends grabbing a bottle of prosecco because it’s less expensive than champagne, and it’s typically easy to find. But the traditional route isn’t your only option; “In my opinion, rosé also works well for New Year’s Eve because it’s refreshing, easy to drink, and everyone can get along with it,” he says. 

If you’re not sure what everyone else is bringing to a potluck, then you’ll want to choose a bottle that can go with almost anything — typically, Bostick says, that means a more acidic wine (rather than a sweet one). “For a white, you’d look for something crisp and refreshing, like a chenin blanc or albarino,” he says. For a versatile red, he recommends beaujolais, which is made in the Beaujolais region of France.

It might seem counterintuitive, but when you’re having dessert, then you’ll also want to choose a sugary wine. “The rule of thumb is the wine should have as much or more sugar than the dessert, or the dessert will overpower the flavor of the wine,” says Bostick. A bottle of moscato would be a great pick, but you could go the bubbly route, too — he says the effervescence strips sugar away from your palate and resets it for the next bite of dessert. 

Casual night in with friends 

Anytime there are sweet and salty snacks — think chocolate and potato chips — Bostick recommends a red blend or a pinot noir. If you’re having a cheese board, opt for a sauvignon blanc, which can cut through the fat (meaning the buttery palate won’t overpower the taste of the wine).

When you’re grilling protein, pick a wine that’s rich in tannins. “The tannins in your wine attach to any fat solubles inside your palate, pulling the flavor through your mouth and getting it ready for the next bite,” says Bostick. A red — specifically, a tempranillo — would be a great choice. Tempranillos have a bit of spiciness, which Bostick says plays well with smoke from the BBQ or grill. 

While brunch parties traditionally involve mimosas, Bostick usually recommends an off-dry German riesling called a kabinett. “It can play to the sweet and savory side of brunch, so you can enjoy it no matter what you’re eating,” he says. Plus, then you don’t need to buy the orange juice!

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