When you’re invited to dinner and the host says, “Bring a beverage of your choice,” what do you do?

“I have a lot of wine friends, so wine is an obvious choice, but that’s not always the case,” says Dustin Wilson, master sommelier and former Eleven Madison Park wine director. “My family, for example, isn’t into wine, so I show up with some fun, unusual beer. Another thing I enjoy bringing a premixed cocktail. Negronis are easy — equal parts gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari — and really fun to pass around when you arrive.”

Wilson tries to get an understanding of what the group would be into. And if it is wine (and that’s usually a safe bet), he’s made it easier to choose the perfect bottle with the new online platform, Verve Wine, which he launched on Dec. 7 with partner Derrick Mize, a veteran wine merchant.

Derrick Mize and Dustin Wilson are the founders of a new online platform, Verve Wine. (Photo by Stephan Werk)

Verve Wine makes discovering great wine as easy as shopping on Amazon or booking a flight online. Users can search for wines by:

  • Occasions such as a movie night, dinner party, or the holidays
  • Pairings such as pizza, sushi, or tacos
  • Flavor profiles including savory, spicy, sweet, or juicy
  • Conventional descriptors like flavor, grape, style, or region

You can also layer filters to find an “exotic, aromatic” “white” wine from “Austria” that pairs well with “spicy food.” The wines come from all price points —from $5 to $1,000 — and Verve Wine ships nationwide. Liquor is sold on the website too. If you order at least four to five days before the event, you should receive your drink of choice on time, Wilson said.

We also asked Wilson for his advice on what wines are best for other occasions that often arise throughout the holidays.

1. To bring to the home of a friend who loves wine:

DW: Champagne is super easy and always a good idea. Dhondt-Grellet [$39] is a great, small-grower producer that’s both powerful and elegant at the same time. Not to mention, it’s a great value.

2. For dinner at a family member’s home, like grandma, the parents, or Aunt Jane:

DW: Gee whiz. Personally, I would bring a couple bottles of Beaujolais. It’s cheap — so you can buy a lot of it, which is key — and has a high deliciousness factor. Anne Sophie DuBois [$24] fits the bill perfectly. Another option is a nice bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. It’s easy, crisp, fun, and a great crowd pleaser. Lieu Dit [$24] is refreshing and tasty.

3. Coworker’s tree-trimming party:

DW: For a cozy night in trimming a tree with a coworkers, I would bring a bottle of Pinot Noir. If you’re sitting around the tree, you want something that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. Presq’ile [$25] does just that.

4. The big party of an acquaintance:

DW: I would say that a bottle of California Cabernet. Lots of people like California cab, so it’s a pretty safe bet. If you’re going to a party, at least some people there will like a nice, big, full-bodied red. It’s juicy, fruity, and all that good stuff. Bauhouse [$16]is a super-affordable pick and a good crowd-pleaser.

Anna Ottum

For menu ideas to host your own dinner, use our resource for all things Christmas.

— Head photo: Stephan Werk.

Amy Sowder is a writer and editor based in NYC, covering food and wellness in publications such as Bon Appétit, Women's Health, Eat This, Not That!, Upworthy/GOOD, Brooklyn Magazine, and Westchester Magazine. She loves to run races, but her favorite finish lines are gelato shops. Learn more at AmySowder.com.
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