Whether your in-laws are wine connoisseurs or just enjoy the occasional glass of vino, a bottle of wine is always a welcome gift to thank them for their hospitality, especially at family dinners. What isn't always welcome: the search for the perfect bottle. Thankfully, Chris Egan has spent 10 years at Uva Wines in Brooklyn, New York, helping patrons—and plenty of daughters-in-law—navigate the wine world. Follow his eight smart tips for finding a bottle that is as delicious as it is impressive. Bottoms up to a great evening!
Ask yourself a few questions.
"First, do you have country of origin preference? Second, will you be pairing the wine with anything? If so, what will you be pairing it with? Try and use the pairing logic of putting region with region. For example, if you are having oysters, buy a white wine from a coastal region, where oysters might be farmed or caught. Also use the pairing logic of imagining the ingredients in your dish, and then imagine how it would all taste if you add the flavor of a wine. For example, if you are making a spicy meal, you may want to add a sweeter white wine such as a Riesling to balance your dish. Try and buy a wine that will enhance your meal, and not get in the way."
Think about price.
"A great wine does not have to break the bank. There are plenty of beautiful, naturally made wines for under $20. An expensive wine doesn't necessarily mean a better wine, and vice-versa. Avoid spending too much on a bottle of wine, only to find out it's not as good as you wished. Wait until you really know your stuff before buying the Cadillac."
If you want to go red…
"When in doubt, go organic, and go French. The French consistently make the most exciting and palatable wines of the world. If you have a decent budget, go organic pinot noir from Burgundy, by far the most dynamic wine of France. Everyone likes a good Burgundy."
If you want to go for a cheap red…
"If you want to spend a lot less, but bring a wine to the party that will give you the 'Oooh, this wine is so good, what is it?' line, look for Raisins Gaulois, a bio-dynamically made Beaujolais for $16. Made from the Gamay grape, it is one of the best deals in wine. Super clean, pure, and medium bodied. Low in alcohol, and no added sulphur, so you can tell your friends and relatives they won't have to worry about those dreaded wine headaches from bigger industrial wines."
If you want to go white….
"Austria is making incredible white wine right now. It is so precise and elegant. Look for an organic Gruner Vetliner, a mineral-driven white."
If you want to go for a cheap white…
"In the France aisle, look for an organic white Muscadet. This underrated wine is made in the beautiful, cliff region of Bretagne by the sea. Muscadet is bone dry, cheap, and delicious. It is excellent food wine too!"
If you have absolutely no idea…
"Ask your wine shop salesperson for medium-bodied, organic, clean, and French. Choosing wines for a dinner, especially with the in-laws, can be very daunting, so play it safe. Some people like funky wines, some people like oaky wines, but everyone likes wine that is just right."
When in doubt, ask your local wine store staff.
"If you can't find these wines, don't worry! Try and buy a wine that is made organically, in an old-world style, from a small producer. Organic, or natural, is very important because grapes are very delicate and need as little interference as possible. If chemicals and pesticides are introduced into the farming and wine-making process, it destroys the essence of the extraordinary phenomenon that is wine. Always ask your wine store staff for advice, because they all live to help you choose the right bottle!"