The month before the festive season tends to be the busiest period on the social calendar thanks to numerous year-end functions, and visits from friends and family. We’ll leave you to decide on the eat-some-morish menus and music, but here’s a few tips when choosing wine for the silly season.
In order to make a good recommendation for type and quantity of wine, I usually have a number of questions; I ask about budget, what type of food is being served, how many persons, are the majority of guests wine drinkers or not, how long is the event, is it mainly standing or sitting, what time of day is the event.
After a number of experiments with large and small events, I am beginning to realise that the bigger the guest list for the party, the fewer wine choices you should have unless wine is the primary focus of the event. Now I typically suggest four wines; a fruity light-bodied and a full-bodied white wine and a light-bodied and a full-bodied red wine.
If there are a lot of new wine drinkers expected I usually throw an off dry white wine or blush in the mix. Persons come to mix and mingle and most are not too concerned about what wine is in their glasses as long as it tastes good, so don’t break the bank for fancy wine; on the flip side don’t go with the cheapest product on the market either.
Examples of light to medium-bodied crisp, dry white wines are: Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and blends containing these cultivars. These wines are all usually food-friendly.
RECOMMENDED WINES: The Arniston Bay Chenin Blanc Chardonnay is masterfully blended with pineapple and melon flavours on the nose. The Arniston Bay Sauvignon Blanc Semillon is a dry white wine with melon, citrus and peach tones and is delicious served with seafood dishes.
Full-bodied whites: Chardonnay and Viognier. Other great white wine choices include some off dry and aromatic wines such as Gewurztraminer, Torrontes and Reisling.
RECOMMENDED WINE: The Arniston Bay Chardonnay which was partially fermented with oak chips to give a mini blockbuster wine with a crème brulée finish.
Medium-bodied reds to choose from are: Pinot Noir, Merlot, some blends.
RECOMMENDED WINE: The Arniston Bay Merlot which was partially aged in French oak barrels for eight months, and has a dark cherry and plum nose with a spicy palate.
Medium to full-bodied reds would include Bordeaux blends, Shiraz and blends, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Pinotage.
RECOMMENDED WINE: The Arniston Bay Reserve Shiraz has a rich fruit character with nice bubblegum notes and velvety tannins. Good weight and length, and is heavenly when paired with succulent roast beef or venison carpaccio.
How much wine to purchase?
Standing guests tend to consume more wine than when they are sitting, so factor four glasses per guest for a typical stand-around cocktail party lasting three to four hours in the evening. One regular 750ml bottle of wine can comfortably pour five to six glasses. If wine is the only drink, then buying one bottle per guest is recommended, with 2:1 red/white ratio. Of course this all depends on your target audience. The earlier the event the less people will consume – unless you’re having a beach or pool party.
Other Home Entertainment tips:
PREPARE FOR SPONTANEOUS EVENTS: Keep a mixed case of inexpensive favourite wines on hand, as well as a couple of bottles of the ever popular Merlot, Chardonnay and a bottle of champagne in the fridge. You’ll always be ready for drop-in guests or spur-of-the-moment celebrations.
CHILLING WINE QUICKLY: Your guests are arriving in 10 minutes and you forgot to chill the white. Sound familiar? Relax and, most importantly, resist the urge to throw the bottle in the freezer. The fastest way to chill a white is to submerge it in an ice bucket filled with a mixture of ice and cold water.
REMEMBER: A white that’s “too chilled” won’t be able to exhibit its full flavour and bouquet; and a red that’s too warm won’t show its full potential. A handy rule of thumb is to take whites out of the ice bucket a half-hour before serving, and place reds in the refrigerator for a half-hour before serving.
CHOOSING WINE GLASSES: Glasses vary in size and shape to enhance the aroma of a particular wine. Start with a set of all-purpose glasses for white and one for red, they must be tulip or pear-shaped; wide bottom, narrow top. Since champagne requires a tall narrow glass so that bubbles stay perky for as long as possible, you’ll want a nice set of flutes as well.
When filling a glass with white or red, stop just below half-full. Leaving room in the glass allows a wine to release its aromas and “open up”. Champagne flutes should be filled two-thirds of the way up.
TO DECANT OR NOT TO DECANT: Do you have an older (10 years or more), or a young full-bodied red on hand? Then yes! Break out your gorgeous decanter and go to it. Decanting separates unpleasant sediment from older wines, and aerates them. Big, younger reds simply benefit from having the opportunity to breathe (decanters, like red wine glasses, have a much larger opening than the slim neck of the wine bottle, giving oxygen easier access to the wine).
Some wines will benefit from an hour or so in the decanter before being served, while others can slowly be enjoyed right away. Either way, you’ll notice a progressive deepening of both aroma and taste as the wine opens up over the course of your gathering.
Cheers! Now go forth and try a few new wines.
Source: Jamaica Observer
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