I like to bring wine as a hostess gift during the holiday season. I am attending a party at which I don’t know the hosts as well, although I know that they prefer reds. If I want to buy a $20-$25 bottle of wine, is there a better varietal to choose?
Good on you for bringing something consumable as a hostess gift. This is more of an etiquette issue than a bartending issue, but when giving any sort of “house” gift (housewarming, hostess, houseguest, etc.), you’re always doing your host a favor by giving something she won’t have to find room to display. You might love the black wicker fruit basket you found on sale at Pier 1, but your taste isn’t necessarily hers, and this way, once she’s drunk the bottle of wine, she doesn’t have another trinket junking up her house.
Anyway, on to the wine. At your targeted price point, you probably can’t lose. The safest crowd-pleasing wines would be either pinot noir or cabernet. Pinot is almost always a bit more light-bodied, meaning it’s a bit more accessible, but it might be a bit weak on some people’s palates. I’m always a fan of buying a bottle of something you’ve enjoyed in the past, so that there’s a bit more thought and a bit more of you included in the gift. If you’re not a regular wine drinker, just ask someone at your wine shop for a crowd-pleasing $20 bottle of red, and ask the clerk to tell you enough about the wine that you can talk about it. (If the clerk can’t do that, go to a bigger wine store, and you should find someone who works exclusively in the wine section.)
Remember these quick notes to take your gift over the top.
First, make sure that you don’t expect your hostess to open your bottle of wine and share it at the party. If she wants to, great, and watch the other guests enjoy your gift. Otherwise, you’re presenting that wine to your hostess so she can enjoy it at her leisure at some other time. (Again, this is more of an etiquette than a bartending point, but nonetheless, here we are.)
Second, remember a nice bar of dark chocolate always goes well with a bottle of wine. Wrap the two together with some ribbon, and do that crafty thing where you curl the ends with a scissor. You’ll be just fine.