Are you nervous about an upcoming dinner party, where you've been asked to bring wine? Or have you failed in this situation in the past? If you are completely in the dark about what to bring, here are a few styles that are food-friendly, versatile, and drink well with or without food. The key is to select wines that can be flexibly paired with almost any dish and are not overpoweringly dry or too weighty. The best part? Most of the favorites listed here are under $25.
1. Sparkling Wines - Bubbles are almost always my personal choice in this situation. Of course, they are perfect to toast with, and they evoke a celebratory tone, but what really makes them stand out is their versatility as food-pairing wines. If you don't want to shell out for true Champagne, look for similar dry or "brut" styles from around the world.
- Favorite picks: Roederer Estate, California; Gruet Brut Rosé, New Mexico; and Lucien Albrecht Cremant d'Alsace Brut Rosé, France.
2. Crisp Whites - Select dry wines with higher acidity, like Chablis from France, Gavi from Italy, Pinot Gris from Oregon, or Sauvignon Blanc from almost anywhere. Think of acidity as the mouth-watering component in wine that prompts your next bite, refreshes your palate, and cuts through even the heaviest of sauces.
- Favorite picks: Michele Chiarlo Le Marne Gavi, Italy; Scarpetta Pinot Grigio delle Venezie, Italy; and Brocard Sainte Claire Chablis, France.
3. Lighter Style Reds - Although there is a time and place for a bold, extremely dry, red wine, such as a Cabernet Sauvignon, what happens if your host is serving halibut? I personally tend toward a Pinot Noir in this scenario because of its flexibility and approachability; however, if you are desiring a slightly bolder red, Spain and Italy are great places to look.
- Favorite picks: Elk Cove Pinot Noir, Oregon; Tres Picos Garnacha, Spain; and Nozzole Chianti Classico, Italy.
4. Dry Rosés - If the sight of pink wine makes you think of cloyingly sweet White Zinfandel, you are missing out on a true culinary pairing gem. Crisp, dry expressions of rosé, such as those from Provence, France, are vibrant and fresh like a white wine, with the body of a light, red wine, which is why they are so versatile.
5. Dessert Wines - So often, we overlook the opportunity to sip on something sweet at dinner's end. Your selection does not necessarily need to pair perfectly with the dessert, since so many dessert wines are spectacular on their own. Sipping a dessert wine prolongs the dining experience and encourages after-dinner conversation.
- Favorite picks: Tabali Late Harvest Muscat, Chile; Petit Guiraud Sauternes, France; and Yalumba Antique Tawny Port, Australia.
Those are my picks! Do you have any favorite bottles to bring to a party?