Friday, September 9, 2011

F-F-F-Friday - The Boy’s Role in Matching Wine with Dinner

I'd like you to give a big, wonderful, "hot as" welcome to my darling - The Boy!!!! He's very kindly agreed to take some time out of his busy schedule (I had to remind him!) to write a guest post for me. You've heard me talk about our dinner parties and the wine The Boy likes to serve with them. Here's his perspective on the proceedings.

A red? A white? No? Both!

When my ‘Girl’ is planning a dinner party for several couples or as part of her ‘Singles and Strays’ functions, I look forward to selecting what wines to drink and consider it both a privilege and a responsibility to make sure the wines match the people and food. My main challenge frankly is to provide a great drinking experience to compliment, but not over-shadow the eating experience. Personally this is harder than it should be for me because my love for great wine and ability to enjoy wine on its own (“make sure the food does not get in the way, or forget the damn food”) tends to always push me in the direction of selecting great wines regardless of the food and situation. Therefore, I need to take a subordinate position to make sure the food is the featured part of dinner, not the wine.

The Boy in his cellar ... aka The Man Cave

We usually try to firm up the menu and guest list 2 – 3 days ahead of time to ensure the wines are accessible and properly prepared. I keep about 150 bottles of wine in our apartment, but a larger and more diverse cellar exists in at Wine-Ark about 15 minutes away, and often requires a trip to achieve the ideal line-up. To come up with the wine list for the evening, I answer a few important questions, including:
  • How many courses will we have and how many people? (usually 6 – 8 people and 3 – 4 courses, and possibly 5 – 6 dishes)
  • What is the general food theme for the evening and what are the particular dishes?
  • How mature is the wine palate of the people attending?
  • What events and other dinners are the guests (and us) involved in the night before or after? (Should this evening be the week’s highlight or more subdued?)

Regardless of the theme and specific courses, I try to follow a simple formula as follows:
  • Start with a wine upon arrival (may be on its own while we stand and chat or served with a tapa or two). This is usually a sparkling wine, moscato, or a more exotic blend (such as a shiraz / semillon spritzed wine)
  • Have a white (if it matches) or lighter red with entrees
  • Based on the main course, several bottles of red wine and possibly a white
  • With desert, finishing off the reds and providing an assortment of desert wines, usually including a sweet white desert wine, and an assortment of ports, muscats and other liqueurs

In general, I try to serve as many different wines as the size of the crowd will allow, never serving more than one bottle of the same wine. I also try to provide a diverse set of wines to ensure there is something that everyone will like and to provide variety for those who like a lot of different wine.

I also try to have a line-up which allows comparison of styles, vintages, regional differences, and price range for people to learn a little and appreciate the many different wines available to them. (The purpose of the dinner party is to enjoy the people, the food and the wine – not critique, compare or judge the wine: for that, every three months or so, we have a larger group of people and wines as a wine tasting where the wine is the dominant theme and the food is secondary). I also always only serve wine from my own cellar so as to have some history and a story to tell for each wine. When guests bring wine as they often do, I put it away for personal consumption later or to serve up at a future dinner. Often, the bottles that guest bring need to be cellared for at least several more years before hitting the proper drinking age. And finally, I try to always find a wine which ‘surprises’ or is quite a unique experience. This may be a $15 bottle of wine which drinks like a $50 bottle of wine, or an alternative grape such as a durif, tannat, or malbec.

I do my best to provide stand-out wines, but it is always with the intent of complimenting, not over-shadowing my Girl’s great food.

Wasn't that a wonderful post? I'm so glad The Boy took the time to write this up. I had an idea that he put a lot of thought into selecting the wines for the night, but I really had no real idea until he articulated it like this. Thank you, darling. You're welcome back anytime. 

On another note, The Boy is going to be starting up his very own wine blog very soon. I'll keep you posted and provide a link when it's up and running.

Now on to you ... do you like a glass of wine or something else with dinner? What do you serve for your dinner parties? Do you plan ahead what drinks will be available for your guests to drink? Do you have any favorites yourself?

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  1. Wow, what a great post! I generally don't drink wine with dinner, but save it for after dinner. It's a nightly ritual with my darling husband. I do, however, appreciate a nice wine with dinner, so I should probably make more of an effort!

    I love woody cabernet sauvignon and my husband much prefers a fruity merlot. We have found some good cab-merlot blends, which seem to suit us both. We are not, by any stretch, wine experts! :)

  2. Caren, neither are we wine experts, but we do enjoy our wines. The Boy as you can see is very passionate about his wine and whether it's with a meal or just sitting down and sipping a glass with a book, he just loves delving into the cellar for a good bottle.