What is an appropriate wine to gift? How much money should be spent on a bottle? Should you expect the host to open it or save it for another time?
All very good – and regularly asked – questions.
First of all consider the hostess: is this your BFF or your partner’s boss? How formal or serious is this occasion?
Starting with price, we generally think that somewhere in the $25 – $50 range is a good amount to spend on a gifting bottle. Too little makes you look cheap and too much borders on awkward. Basically, we consider what we would spend on a meal if we were going to a restaurant and use that as a guide.
Next, do not worry about bringing something that goes with the meal. Technically speaking, the hostess has no obligation to open your bottle that night. Presumably, she (or he) has planned out the menu and put some thought into pairing the wines, so she or he has every right to put your bottle into the cellar for a later occasion (after graciously thanking you, of course).
Now, if the party thrower does decide to do away with all propriety, throw caution to the wind, and open your bottle with dinner, hopefully you brought something halfway decent. Wines with higher acid, and low to moderate tannins are good bets for decent dinner pairing. Consider the following, though this is certainly not an exhaustive list:
Champagne or traditional method sparkling wine
Finally, for what kind of bottle to actually bring, we do either one of two things: bring their favourite bottle (or a reasonable facsimile), or bring ours. There are pros and cons to both, so knowing your recipient is key. The former option won’t inspire any wows, but it will be appreciated and not re-gifted, so points there. The latter option could be a fun surprise that introduces them to something they love … Or something they hate, so, there’s that.
If we’re meeting someone for the first time, or someone we don’t know very well, we do our best to get in a little reconnaissance before hand (nothing creepy – simply perusing the host’s Facebook profile will suffice). Maybe they’re proud of their Italian heritage, or have a zillion pictures of Prosecco, or perhaps they’re known for their mad BBQ skillz. That will lead us to give them a nice Chianti, fruity bubbly, or hearty red that will likely hit the mark.
If we’re going to someone’s house who we know reasonably well, we may take a gamble with a bottle we’ve really enjoyed recently (still taking into consideration the hostess’ basic preferences – no point bringing a red to someone who is a staunch white wine only kind of a gal). If we have a bottle of something we love, we’ll bring that as gift knowing (well, hoping and assuming), they’re going to like it too, and be excited we just introduced them to something new.
In short, it is the thought that counts. You don’t need to sweat the details of giving a bottle of wine, but a small amount of consideration can win you a second invite. Whether or not you want it, is another story.