Say what? Five new rules for serving your wines

Say what? Five new rules for serving your wines

Kick off with a champagne, go straight into a red or white to suit dinner, serve a sweet wine with dessert, and then finish with a port, cognac, brandy or other spirit. This is generally the way most dinner party serving guides would have you serve your wines. It can be ok, if you’re not too worried about the matching of wines with foods, or if you’re more of a casual dinner party person who doesn’t mind opening a few bottles and letting the guests choose (I know that’s how dinner parties usually work in the real world!). If you want to go deeper into blowing the palates of your guests away, and subtly altering their whole view of the world, then maybe a few of these new rules could be for you.

Rule 1. You don’t have to start with a traditional champagne
It is very common to be greeted at a dinner party with champagne or sparkling wine, and nobody in their right mind is going to complain about this. In fact, it’s such a time-honoured tradition that I’m tempted to not even bother suggesting an alternative. But for the sake of argument, why not introduce something different? The champagne blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier is a glorious wine but, if you’re going to spend bags of money to supply it to your guests, it might be too big a hit to begin with at your dinner party. Try something that gives a good variety to the tried-and-tested champagne, such as:
Blanc de Blancs Champagne/Sparkling – Made purely from Chardonnay, a wine like this in a drier style will give a real purity of flavour and texture to the palates of your guests before the meal. The biscuity, flavourful complexity of a traditional blend might lead some down the garden path, whereas this is a straight line of goodness. Some good choices are reviewed here.
Dry Riesling – The crunchy, lemon-lime zest of a dry Riesling can really leave the palate feeling dry and clean, and ready for a gobful of good food and wine. It doesn’t have to be a large serving, but something with some zip and line of flavour – without being over the top – can really be a different intro to your dinner party.
Semillon – Highly recommended from the Hunter Valley, Australia. Citrus notes, without being too overbearing, can really wake up the taste buds that might be sheepishly expecting a glass of something traditional. Again, a smaller serving need only be served, perhaps even with a seafood canapé or entrée. These recommended wines can lead straight into your first course! 
For more information on the Hunter Valley and visiting the area, here is a perfect link!

When in doubt, go versatile with your wines to stop bad pairings

Rule 2. If in doubt, go versatile
I have often found that trying to pair every bit of every meal alongside the perfect wine can be a nightmare. The fact is, most people drink at different speeds, and trying to hurry up or slow your guests down to keep in line with the wine pairings can be a bit rude, or just plain hard to do. Interrupting your guests to speed them up can be a little awkward. Instead, open a few bottles of versatile wines, that can be consumed throughout the meal, even with dessert. Try these:
A light Cabernet Franc – can go with pate or a terrine, can stand up to light game birds, and even a well-matched dessert or an after-meal cheese plate. Look for more delicate Cabernet Francs, that will give you a soft varietal flavour while not overpowering any of these meals.
Light-bodied Pinot Noir – can save you oodles of time during the meal, and can go with a good charcuterie plate, a beautiful duck breast, and even a good Gouda, Edam or Comté.
Late-harvest Semillon or Riesling – can surprisingly go with many different styles of food, from blue cheese to seafood, and desserts with coconut, while the Riesling can also go with a sweeter dessert and desserts with pastry.

Have a variety of wines on hand to help find the perfect cheese wine

Rule 3. Don’t rely on a killer cheese-matched wine
Cheese is a thing that can ruin wine, or make it simply perfect. If you have already planned what you are going to serve with what cheeses, then go right ahead and serve! If a guest is bringing a cheese plate, a good rule is to not open the most expensive or treasured item in your cellar. While versatility (Rule 2) is key, a couple of lower-priced or less-treasured wines can get around any surprising cheese choices. Handy cheese wines include:
Sparkling Shiraz: Seemingly a specialty of Australia, this wine is not for everyone, but can help to get around the problem of whether to serve sparkling wine, dessert wine, red wine or something else. It often packs spiciness and savoury notes of Shiraz, but the sparkling nature gives it a pleasant lift.
Gewurtztraminer – Not always an automatic choice for cheese pairing, this wine can be found in a variety of flavours from pleasantly fruity and sweet, to drier, crisper and cleaner. Even a pair of these – one of each – could straddle the divide of cheeses on a platter.

Rule 4. If going with food and wine, bring together smells and textures
This is one not many people think of. A good rule of thumb is that soft dishes need soft wines, and complex and robust dishes need rounder and fuller wines. Some basic tips:
Smell can match food – Duck with Pinot Noir is something that might occur to everyone, but what makes it good? The delicacy of the grape, but also the varietal cherry aromas that lift the flavours of the duck.
Gritty should match gritty – Rustic dishes with truffles and mushrooms can go really well with rustic wines, like an unpolished Shiraz-Grenache blend, or a really good Chianti. Don’t try to go over the top and blow guests away, when the wine aromas and texture might mismatch completely.

Ask yourself before opening: Do I want to serve this?

Rule 5. Don’t rush to serve your best stuff
When guests come over, it’s easy to want to crack open your best bottles and come together in a vinous heaven. But try to keep your head! After your guests leave, you may regret opening those bottles that you were saving for a perfect occasion. In saying that, good friends always deserve to be served good wines. If you want to go with a drinking marathon, serve a menu of food that matches a colour of wine. Try a ‘white menu’ that might be chicken, then cheese, with something creamy in between, or a ‘red menu’ with charcuterie, steak or duck, followed by a red-loving cheese. That way you won’t have millions of mismatched and regret-filled bottles lying all over the floor!





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I think I was captured by how essentially natural or organic the whole process of winemaking is. It's farming, it's viticulture, it's weather and soil, and many more things. It's the winemaker. But after all these things, after the cap is unscrewed or the cork popped, I (and you) get to enjoy it. Then we talk about it and learn some more. Which is, I guess, the reason why you're here! Here you'll find stories, links, wine education samples and wine reviews. I am entirely independent and my wine reviews and ratings are based on my own thoughts and opinions. I accept no endorsements for products or good reviews. Enjoy! I can be reached for comments, feedback and questions at Good drinking to you! David

On the Hill of Corton

On the Hill of Corton


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