Snooth's Wine Survival Guide

Seven wines to get you through any occasion


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 House

The 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 Lovers

The 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 Haters

The 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 Date

The 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 Day

The 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 Wedding

The 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-Law

The 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 experts

Introducing: 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.

Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: masonmc
    380321 10

    Is this going to be a series? Because this should definitely be a series! (Love the relationship progression of date ---> mother in law.)

    Mar 30, 2010 at 12:16 PM

  • Snooth User: Mark Angelillo
    Founding Member Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    2 5,355

    Useful tips here! Thanks.

    Mar 30, 2010 at 12:25 PM

  • This is a huge help. Especially the tip re: partying with wine geeks. I'm a casual enthusiast who knows what he likes (big spicy reds, especially Riojas and Barossa Valley shirazes) but is always wary of looking like a schmuck among those who are more in-the-know. Thanks for this.

    Mar 30, 2010 at 1:20 PM

  • Snooth User: donnajo
    305165 10

    Strongly agree with the Gruet sparkling suggestion. I serve it every year at our holiday party and people love it! Also, Malbec's are always a hit without breaking the bank!

    Mar 30, 2010 at 1:52 PM

  • Snooth User: wjgreen314
    169432 21

    Brilliant. Practical but reflective of thought and creativity. An important bookmark.

    Mar 30, 2010 at 1:55 PM

  • Just had my first bottle of the Achaval Malbec, and I agree that is an awesome wine. There was an article in the WSJ recently on the winery too. So get it now, before the prices go up. You won't be sorry.

    Mar 30, 2010 at 3:15 PM

  • Snooth User: Adam Levin
    Hand of Snooth
    77280 1,763

    Great article. Where's that "Like" button when you need it.

    Mar 30, 2010 at 7:35 PM

  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 6,185

    Was curious about the pairings on the linked page with the pear tart. The first couple bottles I'd consider weren't even listed (even as countries much less categories) as options. You included German rieslings, Italian moscatos and American dessert wines (my preferred order of strength) but entirely skipped over French and Spanish wines, not to mention Hungarian or anything from other parts of the New World.

    Frankly the US dessert wines are the weakest wines, as a class, made in the States. For that dish a Vouvray or Barsac (my first two choices) or Sauterne from France, moscato or better yet sweet sherry from Spain, Marsala from Italy, Tokaj from Hungary, Madeira or white port from Portugal all would be better....

    Thus, I suggest you expand your listing of samples on the page, at least by another 50%, preferably 100%. And even if the US is the closest market, don't just flop down in submission to crap offerings....

    And frankly, if an employee brought me a malbec from Argentina, I wouldn't be impressed. I'd think he/she was submitting to current group think within a certain segment of the market, not yet grown enough beyond college party view, and wasn't of explorative or creative enough mind (even if the Archaval is one of the better of a boring lot). Fortunately, I've never had that problem (yet).

    These snipes aside, I think your series (and it should be made into at least a mini-series, as suggested in comments above) is a nice new offering from Snooth. I'm looking forward to it, and particularly more of your interview series started yesterday, more biting incisiveness and less cute sliding being better, of course.

    Mar 30, 2010 at 8:07 PM

  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 6,185

    ItMustBeAaron, try the Nero d'Avola first, before taking it to your wineloving globetrotters' place. And be prepared to hunt for and try more. There's a lot of throat-gagging crap with sour tannins, low acid and no followthrough under that varietal label out there, though some can be a true find. As usual, keep tasting and trying. It's a fun journey...

    Mar 30, 2010 at 8:13 PM

  • Snooth User: RamaCaida
    440502 13

    Yes, there are excellent Malbecs and mediocre Malbecs and bad Malbecs, just like any other varietal, but I thought it was a clever suggestion for negotiating the employee/employer relationship. Not too extravagant, not too ostentatious, and not too conventional either. Just one grammatical error (a common one) Argentine is the correct adjective to use when describing wine. A person (male or female) with Argentine nationality is called an Argentinean. Good article, with some sound advice!

    Mar 30, 2010 at 9:30 PM

  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 6,185

    Rama, to stretch my point a little, but not too much, I view the mini-boom in Argentine malbecs in the past half a decade to be similar to the boom in California merlots in the '90s. Similar winemaking styles, similar marketing aims (though the Argentineans may not be quite that ambitious) and similar degree of interestingness to the wines, though of course there have been several good, even great merlots out of Napa with Duckhorn being one of the leaders of the pack, just as there are some better malbecs from the Andes. Personally I get much more pleasure from the malbecs from Cahors. And I love good right-bank Bordeaux blends with plenty of merlot.

    I'd think of someone who brought me an Argentine malbec in 2010 what I would have thought of someone bringing a Cali merlot in 1995. I'd be far more impressed by a Luneau-Papin muscadet at $12 or a Le Cupole di Trinoro right bank blend (30% merlot) from Tuscany for $28, or a chardonnay from Jura, or a white from the Savoie or Alto Adige, or even a sangiovese from Villa Ritina in the Chianti Classico designation for $19, all offers in my inbox over the past day or so. An employer warrants a little thought, and perhaps even a web search or two, I would think. And I don't think I'm the only employer who would think so. Or so I think... ;-)

    Mar 30, 2010 at 11:35 PM

  • Snooth User: daclark
    380046 127

    Now this is the type of info and direction I like on Snooth! What's next in the series? What about wines for different type of clients? You know, the know it all, the power broker, the negotiater, the friend, etc...

    Mar 31, 2010 at 12:22 AM

  • Snooth User: andyboza
    259524 8

    The pope would approve! On a recent reception on the Vatican to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Peace and Friendship Treaty among Argentina and Chile hosted by his Holiness Benedicto XVI, Achaval Ferrer Finca Bella Vista Malbec (2007) and Castello del Poggio Moscatto d'Asti were on the wine menu.

    Apr 02, 2010 at 12:06 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    And in light of it being Easter, I'll say I like hitting those two out of the park!

    Bella Vista is my favorite single vineyard by Achaval-Ferer, by the way.

    Apr 03, 2010 at 11:41 AM

  • Are we talking about a dinner-party here? If so, you need our Wining and Dining - A guide to Wine and the Dinner Party:

    Dec 06, 2012 at 11:25 AM

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