Oh boy! You've been invited to a party and asked to take a bottle of wine. Now what? You don't think you know a thing about wine but are expected to show up and not embarrass yourself. Well, fear not!
There are several things to consider. First, who will be attending the party. If this is an invite to the bosses house for dinner, that's one thing. If it's a after-work happy hour, a beach party or picnic, that's another. The primary thing to consider is who you are buying the wine for.
So, let's start from the easiest position to be in. If you are invited to an after work happy hour, a beach party or picnic with a big group, don't fret. Just about any bottle will do. The point will be to enjoy some food and wine and have a good time. Show up with a chilled bottle of Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, a Rosé or White Zinfandel and your bottle should be a hit.
Next, if you are invited to someone's house for a big party, whether it be an open house or a birthday party, again it's hard to go wrong. The big group will just be looking for a bottle that can be opened and enjoyed while socializing at the party. Along with the previously mentioned white wines and rosés, you might venture into the reds wines and consider some popular Red Blends, Zinfandel, Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. Inexpensive versions of these can easily be found in the $10 range. And, like the beach party or picnic, it will be easy to introduce your wine with little threat.
Next comes the smaller couples party where you are to take a bottle of wine. Now your wine will be noticed. If you know the hosts well, ask what type of wine they'd like for you to bring. They know what food they are going to be serving and should give you some direction on a white versus a red. Otherwise, show up with a nice bottle of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Merlot in the $15 price range.
A harder situation is when the boss invites you over for dinner or you are in a social situation where you are trying to make a strong positive impression. Even if you weren't asked to bring a bottle of wine, you should show up with one. If you are trying to impress, plan on shopping by price and find a nice bottle of red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, or Zinfandel) in the $20 price range. Yes, that may be a bit pricey compared to what you would usually spend, but you want to impress. And, spending a few extra dollars will be well worth it.
Finally, if you've been invited to someone's house where you know they are big wine lovers, you want to be looking at the upper shelves at the 'nice' wines. If you can go $20 to $40, do so. And focus on the red wines. A nice bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah or a fine red blend should impress.
Oh, and whether it's a picnic party or a small gathering, be sure to look around at what other wines show up. It will give you a better sense for next time. And, you just might want to drop off your bottle and try someone else's wine that you've never tried before.
So, boldly go out there, pick up a bottle of wine to share and, most of all, don't worry. Your wine will be appreciated and rapidly consumed. Cheers!