10 Bottles of Wine Under $40 You Can Take to Meet Your Partner’s Parents

10 Bottles of Wine Under $40 You Can Take to Meet Your Partner’s Parents
First impressions count: We asked 5 wine experts what their favorite bottles under $40 are so you don't show up empty-handed on one of the biggest interviews of your life.

In most long-term relationships, sooner or later it comes time to meet the parents. It’s a time-honored tradition that makes many commitment-phobic men squirm, as it usually represents a point in the relationship when things take a turn for the serious. It’s also a perfect opportunity to make a good first impression with two of the most important people in your partner’s life.

Typically, dinner at their place is the setting for such an occasion. I’m going to be blunt here: Only schlubs show up to their partner's parents’ house for dinner empty handed. Do so and prepare to be judged accordingly. A small token, usually consumable, is table stakes. It shows that you’re a thoughtful and put-together young man who takes the time and effort to show your appreciation and sends a message that you know how to dance the unspoken but ever-present dance of parental approval.

Bringing a dessert is nice, but preferences vary too widely to cover everyone’s tastes and if it’s left uneaten it will eventually spoil. Bringing a bottle or two of wine is a total adult move. It lends an air of sophistication and whether they drink wine or not, it will never go to waste, even if they re-gift it or use it at a later time.

But an impressive tipple doesn’t have to break the bank. We talked to five wine experts all over the country, from wine makers to award-winning sommeliers to authors and more to ask them their favorite nationally available bottles under $40 that are sure to impress the parents. With quality bottles actually available in this price range, you should have plenty of money left over to pick up a chocolate babka, too (or cinnamon if you’re in a pinch.)

Chad McClendon

Bar manager of The Library at the Warwick Melrose Hotel in Dallas, Texas:

Red – Belle Glos ‘Las Alturas’ Pinot Noir; $40

“It has a deep dark ruby color. This is not a Pinot Noir for the faint of heart. It is a full-bodied, deep dark fruit, with great structure all over your palate.”

White – Laurenz ‘Singing V’ Gruner Veltliner; $20

“One of my favorite summer wines and very inexpensive. The bouquet has beautiful notes of citrus, apple, and peach. It is juicy and soft on the palate with nice acidity to balance the wine.”

best wine under $40

Kelly Peterson Bates

Sommelier at The Boarding House in Chicago:

Red – Broadside, Margarita Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, CA 2012; $20 (approx.)

“Robustly fruity and youthful. Bursting with black currant, black cherries, and berries, this is an easy drinking fruit-forward Cabernet. There is a bit of spice and a chalky minerality intertwined with the big, bold Paso Robles fruit.”

“This was ranked as one of the New York Times Top Domestic Wines Under $20 and it is very deserving of this title. This wine is coming from Chris Brockway, a rising rockstar of a winemaker, whose other label, Broc Cellars, goes for a higher price. Together, with fellow winemaker Brian Terrizzi of the winery Giornata, they offer us the Broadside project. These are their wines priced for the people, priced to drink and enjoy and not break the bank. We love these super value wines! Who doesn't want a great Cabernet without the price tag?”

White – Loimer, Gruner Veltliner Kamptal, Austria 2014; $20 (approx.)

“On the nose inviting aromas of herbs, supported by a characteristic white peppery spiciness, followed by fresh cut orchard fruit (green apple/pear). Racy and crisp on the palate, yet beautifully balanced. Bone dry and refreshing.”

“This particular Gruner has been a part of The Boarding House by the glass program since the very beginning! The vintages have obviously changed, and each is consistently delicious! If we ever removed this as a BTG option [by the glass], there would be a revolt amongst the staff! This is a go-to favorite of our sommeliers for food pairings, as well as a go to drink at the end of a long shift. Fred Loimer's Gruner Veltliner is an affordable, great wine that is easy to bring to a gathering or on a BYOB date because it is so versatile amongst food, but drinks very well on its own and is pleasing to numerous white wine drinkers, from the Pinot Grigio lover to the Chardonnay drinker. You simply cannot go wrong.”

best wine to take to parents

John Laloganes

An award winning wine steward and sommelier. He is an assistant professor of hospitality management at Kendall College in Chicago and has written several books on wine and spirits:

Red – Beckman Vineyards, Syrah, Purisima Mountain Vineyard (PMV), Santa Barbara County, California 2012; $30 (approx.)

“One of the best expressions of Syrah as it illustrates its expected ‘masculine’ characteristics. The nose exhibits intense aromas of blackberry, smoke, chocolate and bacon fat with a rich mouthfeel yet supple and silky tannins. This is an example of a rich robust red wine that goes well with steak, lamb and wild game, or with an aged cheddar cheese but equally well on its own.”

White – Presqu'ile Winery, Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley, California 2013; $35

“This is one of the best California Chardonnays because it is made with minimal intervention (typically very opposite of most chardonnays) and illustrates the uniqueness of the highly fashionable wines coming from the Central Coast region. The nose (aromas of honey, pineapple with toasted almonds) is suggestive of a warmer climate, yet the lively acidity, freshness and moderate body which is more often associated with a cool-climate wine. Pairs well with grilled or broiled wild salmon or skin-on poultry,  or pork chop. It goes equally well with vegetarian based option such as risotto, wild mushroom and cheese ravioli or linguini pasta tossed in a butter or cream sauce. Can pair well with a bloomy rind type of cheese.”

wine to take to girlfriend's parents

Alexander LaPratt

Master Sommelier and Owner and wine director of Atrium DUMBO in Brooklyn:

Red – Vina Sastre Crianza from Ribera del Duero; $35

“It's 100% Tempranillo [a type of grape] from vines aged between 20 and 60 years old grown at high altitude between 800 and 900 meters. This gives the wine an incredible focus and you can really taste the chalky minerality from the subsoil. It has flavors of red plum, blackberries and grilled meat. It sees new French oak aging which compliments the concentrated power with hints of vanilla, cedar, smoke and cinnamon. I really enjoy this wine with a cut of dry aged beef grilled over apple wood or charcoal. Dry aged beef always has an intense richness and nuttiness and the power and acidity of this wine will cut through that and the grilled meat and smoke from the grill will compliment well the hints of cedar and smoke in the wine.”

White – Marques de Riscal Rueda; $15 (approx.)

“This 100% Verdejo wine is produced from vines aging around 15 years old and is an incredible value. Marques de Riscal is responsible in a major way for the rebirth of the Rueda region to focus on old vine Verdejo and adopt more modern wine making techniques. This wine has great citrus aromas of lemon, mandarin orange, along with tropical hints of green papaya and herbal notes of fennel and fresh grass. It's the perfect wine to accompany a dry rub barbeque pork sandwich with an apple and fennel cole slaw topping and freshly grilled corn on the cob sprinkled with a little cotija cheese!”

best wine to take to boyfriend's parents

Brian Smith

Winemaker, Sommelier, and Chief Wine Officer of wine discovery service Club W:

Red – Endgame Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2013; $29

“Quality Napa Cabernet aged in new French oak for under $30 is not common. This is the first release for this label but it is off to a good start. Price-to-quality counts even in the exclusive world of cult Napa Cabs, and Endgame stands up to some of the most classic examples. Drink it now or cellar for 7-10 years.”

White – Oh Snap! Sparkling Chenin Blanc, Clarksburg, California 2014; $16

“California sparkling wine is no longer about Cooks and Korbel — there is a revolution taking place in American wineries when it comes to sparkling wine. If you were to take a poll from some of the more progressive winemakers in California, chances are they either have an experimental bubbles project in the cellar or, they are planning on starting one this year. It's difficult to make a good value sparkling wine, but Oh Snap! is one that goes head to head with some of the best Spanish Cava and Italian Prosecco. It's got a slight baker's yeast aroma with pops of pear candy and a gentle fizz on the palate. Yum.”

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So there you have it. Five reds and five whites, personally recommended for Primer readers by some of the country’s foremost wine experts, all well under $40 per bottle. Take a list of the options to your local wine shop or buy online and impress her parents with your sophisticated taste and generosity.

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Chris Nesi

Chris Nesi is a writer and editor born and raised in New Jersey but currently living in Orlando, Florida. His work has appeared in more than a dozen publications including TechCrunch, The Huffington Post and Consulting magazine. When he isn't writing he enjoys swimming, reading, and cycling.