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Dinner with Your Boss

Don't let so many choices daunt you.
Don't let so many choices daunt you.

by Mike Supple
published: 07 Jul 2008
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You got invited to your boss's house for dinner. Congratulations; you're probably not going to get fired. Why not continue your good fortune by impressing your boss and taking some pressure off of the dinner? Bringing the right bottle of wine will help create a relaxed setting and show that you care about making a good impression on somebody who obviously already thinks highly of you.

Here's the problem: your boss may know more about wine than you or, worse yet, just thinks he does. You need to bring a bottle that you can feel confident about, impresses someone who knows about wine, doesn't ostracize someone who doesn't know much about wine and doesn't break the bank. The good news is you're in luck. A few simple tips will make you look like the genius you already know you are.

  1. Avoid white wines. Don't get me wrong, some of the best wines in the world are white. However, whites are very difficult to bring to a dinner. The first reason is because they have to be chilled, and you don't want to show up somewhere and make your host do extra work just because you're there. The second is that people tend to have stronger feelings about white wines than red. They either love them or hate them, and you don't want to get stuck on the wrong side of a Cabernet drinker by brining a big buttery California Chardonnay.
  2. Avoid names you recognize but have never tried on any wine under $20. If you recognize it from anything other than personal experience it, probably means that it's a bulk production wine and they spend a lot of money on advertising. This doesn't inherently mean the wine isn't worth drinking, it just means that your boss may see it that way.
  3. Choose a variety you like. If you have a particular favorite variety of wine, choose something from that category (Syrah for example). There are thousands of great wines out there, so half the battle of impressing somebody with your selection is you feeling confident about it. If you like it, don't be afraid to be assertive; your confidence will catch on and other people will enjoy the bottle.
  4. Go Southern Hemisphere. When it comes to value, the best wines for your dollar are consistently come from the Southern Hemisphere: Chile, Argentina and Australia all produce great wines for less money (but make sure you stick to rule #2, particularly when buying from Australia).
  5. Buy medium-bodied wines. Especially if you don't know what you will be eating, stick with wines that are medium-bodied and will go with a larger variety of foods. This means: Pinot Noir, Malbec, Tempranillo, Chianti (the Sangiovese grape) or Merlot (although thanks to the movie "Sideways" your boss may think Merlot is not good, which is utter crap).
  6. Buy a book by its cover. Seriously. If a wine label draws your eye, it will draw your boss's eye too. Don't go for the garish one with the stripper (yes, this winery actually exists) but something bright and classy will work.
  7. Read the labels. Take three minutes to read the front and back labels of the bottle you picked up. More wineries are hiring marketing specialists and starting to put helpful information on the bottles, which is a nice bonus for you. This will give you something to say when your boss asks you why you chose this particular bottle other than, "It was $17 and that's what I had left after I got gas and a Red Bull." Don't be the idiot who just memorizes the quote on the back, "The cool morning fog coming off the Sonoma Coast gives the grapes a longer ripening time, bringing out more flavors of blueberry and forest floor." Instead, note a couple of key phrases and state them your own way. When you give your boss the bottle say, "I like the cooler Sonoma Coast wines and I thought you would enjoy this one."

I'm listing a few wines below that make great selections, but due to the fact that wines are made in limited quantities, finding a specific bottle at your local shop can be difficult. We've paired up with a great site based in Australia that will show you local stores worldwide that carry the wines. To see if there's one near you just click on the name of the wine. Remember that confidence when presenting your wine is key, so if you follow these tips and pick a wine, feel good about it and enjoy.

2006 Pillar Box Red, Australia - $12
This is a blend of a few different red grapes, mostly Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. Very spicy, rich and jammy, and tastes like a much more expensive bottle. Note: it is in a screw cap.

2006 Don Rodolfo Vina Cornejo Costas Malbec, Argentina - $15
Normally Malbec is a bold and powerful wine, but this one comes from a cooler region that gives it more subtle spices. This makes it better for easy drinking with a variety of foods.

2005 Green Lion Cabernet Sauvignon, California - $19
One of the best values coming out of Napa, hands down. Ready to drink and very high quality. The label was designed by Alan Aldridge who has done album covers for The Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Elton John, Jimmy Hendrix and Pink Floyd.

2005 Domaine Vieux Lazaret Chateauneuf du Pape, France - $25
A blend of several red grapes, mostly Grenache and Syrah. 2005 was a stellar vintage for Chateauneuf du Pape, and this wine is as good as many for twice the price.

2005 Querciabella Chianti Classico, Italy - $25
A solid producer and a great year for Chianti. This wine has really great spicy smells and flavors. And if your boss is into saving the earth, it's Biodynamic (although it does not say it on the label).

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