Dinner Party Wine (On a budget)

Most of my friends know that I am an avid wine drinker. OK, all of my friends know that. There are probably many bartenders around the country who know that as well. It is no secret that I can drink my fair share of red wine (I like the reds) on any given night. I do try to limit my wine intake to those special nights when I can enjoy a decent bottle and eat some cheese with special people, but there are times when a cheap wine (thank you, Trader Joes) will do the trick– on a Tuesday night when I’m feeling less than creative, and I need an extra spiked grape-liquid brain kick.

Over the years (I’m barely over 21. OK, closer to 30), my friends have asked me what kind of wine they should take with them if invited to a dinner party. As we all know, it is customary to bring something for the hostess when you are invited to someone’s home for an event around a meal.  If you are invited to my house, the chances are high that I will have several types of wine already, but you may still bring a bottle. I will love you even more for supplying extra joy to the night. Anyway, I think that many people struggle with the dilemma of choosing a wine that says, “Thank you for inviting me” and not, “I have no clue what I’m doing but grabbed this wine because it was on sale at Giant.”

Here is my general rule of thumb.

If you know that the hostess only drinks white or red, by all means, bring the kind of wine the woman drinks.

If you don’t know what type of wine the hostess drinks, or if she drinks both red and white, then bring a bottle of red. Red tends to have a more “sophisticated” feel to it, and red is always a classic option to serve other guests at a dinner party.

Let’s get more specific.

Let’s say you decide to bring a white option. Do you choose a Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Rosé, Sauvignon Blanc, etc…? Here is my advice. Don’t bring the Chardonnay or Rosé. (Chardonnay is OK if the hostess loves it, Rosé is never OK for a dinner party.) Stick with a Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc, which are both more on the medium to lighter range of the white spectrum. Chardonnay, in my experience, is more of an acquired taste. Rosé is best for a summer pool party, or a ladies Sunday brunch.

If you decide to bring the hostess a red wine, it gets a little trickier. Let’s assume that you don’t know what her tastes are when it comes to the reds. You could possibly bring a Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Shiraz (Syrah), or maybe even a red blend? There are a lot of choices; enough to make your head spin before you even pour the first glass. Relax. Here are a couple of rules that I go by when choosing wine for others. If the hostess is not really “into” wine, meaning she doesn’t drink it that often, I will bring a Pinot Noir. It is a light, simple red wine to enjoy. However, if the hostess is as avid as me, and I have many friends who are, I will grab a Malbec or Cab. Hardly ever do I bring a Merlot to a party. Sometimes, I’ll grab a Shiraz or blend, but only if I know it is the preference of the hostess. Those who really enjoy reds will usually appreciate the heavier-bodied wines anytime of day.

One of my favorite Malbecs
One of my favorite Malbecs

Now that you have narrowed down the type of wine, let’s talk about appropriate cost for a wine gift if you are on a budget: never under $10. I repeat, never show up to a dinner party with a bottle of wine that you got for $4.99. It is tacky, tasteless, and everyone there knows how much you spent on that bottle because they drank one on Tuesday night when they were feeling less than creative and needed an extra spiked grape-liquid brain kick. OK? We all know the cheap brands because we all buy them in ridiculously large amounts and drink them alone while shamelessly eating a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. My rule is $15-$20/bottle is a very nice “thank you” to a generous host. If the party is thrown by someone who you entertain often as well, you may consider bottles that cost $10-$15. Unless the hostess is someone who you are really trying to impress, I would avoid bringing a more expensive bottle. It does kind of give off the wrong impression, especially if it is obvious that you don’t know much about the wine itself.

I will say however, if you are a wine connoisseur, and not on a budget, you may bring the best wine you can think of to my dinner party.

I hope that you have found this helpful. For those of you reading who do know a lot about wine, you are welcome to leave a comment below with your own suggestions.


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Avary says:

    As an avid wine drinker myself, I couldn’t agree with your advice more except that if its my party you’re coming to, a cheap bottle of deliciious wine would be A-OK with me. I’d serve it later when everyone’s taste buds are less acute and buzzed with pleasure at anything that touches them. However, please do not ever, I repeat, do not ever bring me a bottle of Barefoot anything! It’s really just old Welch’s grape juice and it has a foot on the bottle for goodness sake. Ewww.


  2. I recently had a 337 cabernet which retails for $15 and really enjoyed it! I think it would make a great host gift.


    1. historywino says:

      This is a great suggestion! Thanks!


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