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How To: Choose wine to impress anyone – even the in-laws

Jayson Bryant speaks fluent Vino. He not only knows his onions, he also knows his Nosiolas from his Timorassos and his Tempranillos from his Malbecs. Should you be searching for the perfect bottle to cart along to dinner, Bryant's tips will cover your ground, be it friends, family, or ... the in-laws

Jayson Bryant speaks fluent Vino. He not only knows his onions, he also knows his Nosiolas from his Timorassos and his Tempranillos from his Malbecs. Should you be searching for the perfect bottle to cart along to dinner, Bryant's tips will cover your ground, be it friends, family, or ... the in-laws.

People often worry about which wine to take where. It’s the question that puzzles every potential in-law, through to every dinner party guest. We all want to impress, after all.

So you’ve picked them up in a flash car, pulled out your iPhone 4s, got the suit back from the dry cleaner after the last big night out with the boys, and you’re off to the most important dinner of your life, but what about the wine?

Will the wine you take to your future in-laws taint your appeal to them? Will they think you’re crass, too cheap, too fussy?

If your potential in-laws are old enough to remember the Beatles on TV, they’re going to expect something good. They’ll want to know that you can handle difficult situations, that you’re able to look after their daughter, or son, and choose the wine.

If they invite you over for dinner, go by the rule of thumb. Take positive actions, communicate with them about what they’ll be cooking. They’ll want you to be able to do that throughout your relationship, so start early.

Phone your futures and see what they’re cooking. Red wine for red meat, white wine for white meat, but if you really want to impress, take champagne.

A few other tactics can earn you brownie points. If they’re European, then it’s polite to just choose a wine for their cellar, as they generally supply the wine for the meal. They’ve cooked it, after all, and don’t want to risk mismatched wine options.

Should your futures be Antipodean, and I’m assuming most will be, it’s important to phone ahead of the dinner and match your choice with their food. The more gamey the meat, the more earthy the wine should be.

If your hosts are cooking wild venison, try taking a Côtes du Rhône, or if you want to go upmarket try a Hawke’s Bay Syrah. Should it be beef or lamb with a subtle sauce, Pinot Noir is your friend.

Scant knowledge of French food? It’s worth paying attention to what the region’s wines are.    2012 France has had quite a few centuries of perfect wine and food matching behind it.

If the hosts aren’t well travelled and their only experience of wine is Countdown, it’s advisable to steer clear of European wines. They tend to be drier in style, more savoury and are sometimes an acquired taste.

If you have to bring sweet wine, suggest that it pairs with cheese rather than a sweet dessert. Simply suggest that your sweet wine can be enjoyed as an aperitif or digestif. That statement is sure to impress.

Also suggest some blue cheese, and watch the brownie points rack up.

Avoid trying to pair wine with chocolate – suggest a cup of coffee instead.

Most of all, if you’re going to take a random bottle to an important dinner party, make sure you have a story to go with it.

Mark the occasion with anecdotes of how the peasant vigneron struggled with the toil of the land and what a great vintage it was, but it’s your host’s prerogative to make a statement on your wine!

Jayson Bryant is New Zealand's most passionate online wine guy. Follow him @Jayson_Bryant.

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