Your boss has invited you for a meal at their home, and of course, you want to impress, so you offer to bring the wine. Here at Weekly Tasting, we think that bringing a bottle (or two) is the perfect way to show your generosity and, let’s face it, score some brownie points.
These pointers will help make picking out wine for dinner with your boss a success, but you can also use these tips for any situation where you need to bring wine - even if you don't necessarily know people’s preferences or what is being served.
1. Impressing your boss does not necessarily mean you have to drop some major cash on a fancy or well-aged bottle.
Your gesture alone will speak wonders, and it’s more important to bring wine that everyone will enjoy and will pair well with the food. Also, if someone loves the wine you’ve chosen, you'll want them to be able to go out and buy it for themselves, so skip anything too obscure or fussy. Stick to wines you’re familiar with (but that still have a little pizazz), that you know will taste good, and won’t break the bank.
2. Don’t assume that everyone present (even if it’s just you and the boss) will enjoy the same style of wine.
There are many different kinds of wines made from countless grape varieties that come from all over the world. Some people only drink white and some only drink red, so we recommend bringing two bottles: a white and a red - both dry.
3. Consider that you will get 4 to 6 servings from one bottle, depending on the size of your pour.
This may not seem like much, but for dinner with the boss, one bottle of each is just fine. You want everyone to enjoy the wine, without over indulging.
4. A wine with slightly higher acid will always be a winner when it comes to pairing with a wide range of food.
If your boss chooses to serve a lighter meal, the acid in a wine will keep things lively. If they choose richer dishes, that same acid will cut through the fat and help cleanse your palate. In terms of style, think middle ground all around: not too light, not too full-bodied, not too high in alcohol, not too high in tannin, etc.
Now that we’ve loaded you up with general tips, here are some of our favorite food-friendly wines that are always a hit:
One of our favorite grape varieties, this grape is acidic and flavorful. Sauvignon Blanc from France is full of minerality, with flavors of wet stone, citrus, and fresh cut grass. We’re pretty crazy about Sancerre from the Loire Valley. If you prefer a slightly fruitier version with even more boisterous aromatics, look for bottles from New Zealand's Marlborough region or Casablanca in Chile.
An exciting alternative grape to Sauvignon Blanc, examples from Rías Baixas in Northwestern Spain are distinctively floral and lightly fruity, with generous acidity.
Fermenting or aging a wine in oak can add a variety of flavors to the wine, including vanilla, spice, and toast. Some love these flavors in white wine; some don’t! To be safe, stick with unoaked styles of Chardonnay. We love Chablis, a crisp, moderately acidic Chardonnay from Northern Burgundy in France. It tends to have lovely apple and citrus flavors.
If you’re worried about an overly expressive Sauvignon Blanc or humdrum Chardonnay, look for a Gavi DOCG as a more impressive option. Made from the Cortese grape, these wines can be incredibly fresh, with chalky minerality and clean flavors of apple and melon.
Pinot Noir will almost always be our go-to red for any gathering. It’s lighter-bodied with higher acid. Our favorites are the fruitier New World versions, particularly from the Willamette Valley in Oregon, where the Pinots are unbelievably tasty with light, velvety tannins.
The Gamay grape doesn't appear on too many wine labels. In fact, you won’t see this grape coming from many parts of the world outside of France. Look for "Beaujolais Village" or better yet, "Beaujolais Cru" on a bottle. These will be higher quality, serious wines, but still light in tannin and full of juicy berry flavors.
Barbera produces approachable, lively wines that can taste like cherries, violets, and sweet spices. Northern Italy is where this grape is mostly grown and "Barbera d’Asti" or "Barbera d’Alba" are top-notch versions.
Côte du Rhône
We aren’t listing a specific grape here because Côte du Rhône wines are blends of a variety of grapes, often with Grenache and Syrah as major components. For the best options, look for bottles of Côtes du Rhône-Villages. These will offer just a little more tannic structure than the rest of the reds on this list, so anyone who likes a slightly bolder red will love this option.
With your white and red in hand and some wine knowledge under your belt, your dinner with the boss should be smooth sailing - just remember not to talk politics!