It’s customary when you’re invited to a dinner party to bring something along as a gift.

For most people, traditionally this usually means buying a bottle of wine. This can cause all sorts of problems, especially if you want to impress but don’t know your fellow guests very well. Different wines go with different meals and some people prefer reds to whites and vice versa.

Ideally, you don’t want to head down to the supermarket and choose the cheapest bottle of plonk you can find (unless you’re a student).

So what’s the best thing to do?

Ask First

It pays to find out what your host is rustling up for the dinner party and make your decision accordingly. Your choice will be different depending on whether you’re being invited for pizza or a full-blown gourmet experience.

Some hosts plan things out to the nth degree and have the wine all planned. In which case you can ask what their favourite tipple is and get them a bottle of that as a gift. On the whole, however, you’ll be expected to bring a bottle of something for the meal so knowing what’s on the menu is vital.

Which Wine?

For those with little or no knowledge of wine, it’s always best to get some good advice from a local vintner or wine shop, someone who knows what they are talking about. If that’s not possible, there are plenty of resources online that can help you pick out a suitable wine to match the meal.

Here are just a few things to think about.

Themed Nights

If you’re host is giving a themed night, then buy your wine to match. For example, if it’s a Spanish meal, you know to buy wine from that region. If they’re hosting a Thai curry night then you’ll want something that will offset or complement the spiciness of the food. If they’re vegetarians, don’t just assume that you need to bring white wine – there are plenty of red wines that go well with veggie dishes.

Trust Your Taste Buds

If you like your wine (and more importantly like a quality wine) choosing something that appeals to your palate makes sense. You’re then more likely to pick something others are going to enjoy and that’s the whole point of the evening.

The Cost of the Wine

Much will depend on who you are dining with but, if you want to be on the safe side, choosing a mid-range bottle of wine should fit the bill and prevent any embarrassment. These are normally between £10 and £20 and a fair exchange for the meal that’s being cooked for you. Pick a bottle that’s out of the ordinary compared to your standard supermarket fare – while the idea might make the most ardent connoisseur roll their eyes, an attractive label can make a big difference, especially if you are looking to impress.

Wine Parties

More and more people are having dinner parties where the wine is actually the more important part than the meal. These are great occasions for budding enthusiasts and a great way to theme an event. For example, you could hold a Pinot Noir party and ask your guests to bring a bottle from a specific region. You can then sit round and compare the different varieties. Think of it like a book club but for wine enthusiasts – paired with the right food it can give people plenty to talk about at the dinner.

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