Serving Wine for my Dinner Party…

This familiar situation is known to everyone – you’re having good friends round to dinner and you have to attempt to figure out a starter, a main course and a dessert that you know will suit everyone and that they’ll all appreciate. If they are good friends you’ll already know which foods they like, the ones they don’t or even the ones that they aren’t able to eat for whatever reason. Familiarity is good and the food selections, purchases and preparations normally go smoothly and without any hassles simply because everything is orderly and done in the correct fashion in that nothing is left to chance or to the last minute.

When it comes to the various wines that are to be served with the dinner these should also be given considerable care and attention and should also not be left to the last minute.

My routine with regards to the wine is simply to think about it with a few hours to spare. Try and match the wines with what you know your guests have enjoyed in the past and select those that should go with the food to be offered. The main course is normally the most important for obvious reasons but this should not be at the expense of the wine to be served with the starters or dessert.

Whether the wine for the main course is of a fairly recent vintage or is even getting on a bit in years, I can guarantee that in most cases it is definitely worth decanting the wine at least a couple of hours before the dinner is to be served. If an older wine is to be poured then it may be necessary to use a strainer of some sort to filter out any sediment which has built up over its lifetime in the bottle but with the wines from more recent years, simply just pouring the wine into a decanter or similar receptacle really enhances the aromas and the flavour.

You often hear about ‘letting the wine breathe’ but is this strictly correct? What you are doing is allowing the air to get at the surface of the wine and by agitating or swirling the wine whilst in the decanter this simply allows the wine to oxidise slightly and within the hour or two before dinner to warm up a little which again, I think, enhances the flavour. It has become a little fashionable recently to drink red wines more chilled than of old but too cold and I personally don’t think that they offer the same flavours or enjoyment as when they are a little warmer. I’ve even heard of wines being taken from a cellar at the last moments before guests arrive and to warm them up a little they have either been placed on a radiator or even immersed in a bucket of hot water! It’s all in the planning!

The wines to be served with the dessert or cheese (or both), normally sweet or ‘sticky’ wines, really benefit from  a period in the fridge prior to the meal, not too long so they aren’t too cold but just enough so they complement the normally sweeter or savoury final course.

Get yourself into a pre-dinner wine routine. You, your guests and your wines will greatly appreciate it!!