So you're on your way to a dinner party. You stop at a wine shop to pick up a bottle. But then you stand there, bewildered. Red or white? How expensive? What do your hosts like? What will go with their dinner?
Let us simplify matters for you:
First of all, you should not expect that your hosts will serve your wine at the actual dinner. Remember that gifts should not come with obligations. Especially if they're wine lovers like you, they might have put a lot of time and planning into their wine selections, and your wine just might not fit with their planned menu. It's always polite to relieve your hosts of any obligation by saying something like, "You definitely don't have to serve this tonight, unless you want to. Put it aside and enjoy it another day!" With this as your tactic, you don't have to worry about pairing your wine gift with their food. A bottle of wine that you've tasted yourself and enjoyed makes the best gift, and it can be a great conversation starter!
Another tactic is to call ahead of time and offer to provide wine for the dinner, or part of it. If you don't know your hosts well, this may be stepping on their toes, so use your judgment. If you're good friends with your hosts, they will probably be grateful to you for taking some of the planning--and expense--off of their hands. If you're going to bring wine to share, a great choice is champagne to be served with appetizers. Champagne is almost universally liked (especially if you stick to a dry champagne, to please more palates), and it goes well with almost any kind of appetizer your hosts might serve, even those tough-to-match cheeses. Just make sure you provide more than you think you'll need--champagne goes fast!
If your host wants you to get involved, you can bring a wine that pairs with a specific dish or course. But remember that pairing goes far beyond that simple "whites with fish or chicken, reds with red meat" rule. If you want to learn more about pairing wine with food, click here to see our post on the subject.
Remember that picking out a bottle of wine to give shouldn't be a stressful experience. Put a little time and thought into it, and your hosts will be happy!