You know where to turn when you're looking for the best wine to pair with a great recipe, but what about matching a wine to an occasion? Whether it's dinner at the boss's house, a first date, or the big toast at your own wedding, picking the right wine for the right moment can be daunting (even for the most dedicated wine lover).
In this edition of Snooth's Wine Survival Guide, we've gathered seven situations where the right wine can make all the difference, and offered some suggestions for the best bottle to bring.
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1.) Dinner at Your Boss's HouseThe situation: You've polished your anecdotes and picked your best jokes, but first you've got to get through the door -- and it can't be empty-handed.
The solution: Malbec.
Made in a style that's similar to Napa Cabernet, an Argentine Malbec will get you excellent bang for your buck, and show the boss you can think outside the box. The 2007 Achaval Ferrer is stunningly violet in the glass, and is filled with rich, bold notes of brambly raspberry.
2.) A Party with Wine LoversThe situation: Your wine-fanatic friends -- the ones who rent cellar space bigger than your apartment and vacation in distant wine regions -- have invited you for dinner.
The solution: Nero D'Avola.
You don't have to spend a ton to get a bottle that will make your wine-savvy friends smile. This Sicilian red comes from old vines that until recently had been used for bulk jug wines. Today, these viticultural gems are tended by artisinal farmers who turn them into world class wines.
3.) A Party with Wine HatersThe situation: You're cooking for friends or family who don't drink wine, but you'd hate to host and not be able to open a bottle or two.
The solution: Moscato d'Asti.
Even if your nearest and dearest are wine-phobic, you can win them over with this Moscato's light sweetness and fresh, fruit-rich flavors. You'll also be in good company tracking one down, as Moscato d'Asti is one of the most searched-for wines on Snooth.
4.) A First DateThe situation: There's a white table cloth, an intimidatingly long wine list, and a date who's deferring to you on the wine selection.
The solution: Pinot Noir.
Of course, there are many variables involved in this situation, but 9 times out of 10, you'll be able to locate a mid-range Pinot on a restaurant wine list. Oregon Pinot is a good bet to be elegant, food-friendly, and crowd-pleasing.
Bonus tip: don't be afraid to ask the waiter or wine director for a recommendation (if you prefer not to state your price range, just point to a bottle in the range you'd like to pay, and ask for something similar -- all pros know the drill).
5.) Valentine's DayThe situation: Chocolate and lots of it.
The solution: Brachetto.
Brachetto originates in the Piedmont region of Italy; it's light-bodied, pink, and full of bright strawberry notes. In other words, this looks and tastes like love in bottle. Pair it with a raspberry-infused chocolate for an especially spectacular marriage of flavors.
6.) Your WeddingThe situation: Your best man may have to write the toast, but you have to decide what will be in his glass as he does it. You need an amazing, celebratory sparkler that you can serve to 200 guests without breaking the bank.
The solution: Gruet's domestic sparkling wines.
Founded by Champagne producer Gilbert Gruet, this house's remarkably elegant, delicious, and stunningly affordable sparkling wine comes from -- of all places -- the mountains of New Mexico.
7.) Brunch with Your Mother-in-LawThe situation: You're wearing uncomfortable clothes, it feels like she's judging your every move ... and it's too early for Scotch.
The solution: Prosecco.
You're in luck -- brunch is a terrific opportunity to please the mother-in-law while saving your own sanity with a glass of something bubbly. We suggest that you look to Italy: This pear and apple-rich Prosecco will make Mom think you're thoughtful and soothe your nerves in the meantime.
Get to know Snooth's favorite expertsIntroducing: The Grapevine
In this new weekly feature, we'll pose 10 burning questions to prominent wine experts - we'll pick their brains about wine myths, trends, and the best values on the market.
10 Questions for Craig Camp
When he's not overseeing operations at Cornerstone Cellars in Napa, Craig Camp runs the award-winning Wine Camp Blog, providing insightful wine commentary and photography.