-By Ranjith Chandrasiri-

An evening of entertainment at your home should involve good food, good wine, good people, good music and stimulating interaction among your guests. You, the host have a responsibility to ensure that all of the requisite ingredients are present and that one ingredient does not overshadow the others.

I have attended many social gatherings at elegant homes and have been hosted by the best. I understand that some people are simply not into wine and have no knowledge about wine. After all wine is not part of our culture and it is not traditionally consumed with Sri Lankan food. But of course it is becoming trendy to entertain with wine. Just as a host who knows he is not a good cook decides to have the party catered for and serves delicious food, he could also “cater” the wine selections if this is not within his sphere of knowledge and ability.

Many non-drinkers face the intimidating challenge of entertaining guests who do drink and enjoy wine. Questions of what wine to serve with what food, how much wine is enough and whether you should offer guests choices of wine are but a few of the challenges.

Even if you have a fair knowledge of wine, no harm done seeking expert advice on what wines to serve with a particular array of food and desserts. If you don’t know- it is best to ask somebody!

Let me to share few thoughts and ideas on entertaining with wine…..

When entertaining guests for dinner, it is customary to offer a pre-dinner wine – an aperitif. Typically, this is a simple white wine (can and should be inexpensive but tasty and pleasant) as you don’t want this wine to be your best offering. Whether you serve hors d’oeuvres or not, you should offer your guests a drink when they arrive and white wine is the usual choice. This is not the wine with which you want to impress your guests or dazzle them with the quality since you want them to mingle, talk and focus on the people – not the wine.

Some prefer to serve Champagne at this time instead of white wine. Opening of a bottle of Champagne is a “ceremony” that brings together everyone in the group and honour your guests. A glass of Champagne is compelling enough and guests typically know that a glass of Champagne is too special to ignore. Unlike many white wines, Champagne stands alone without food.

Now to the dinner table; which wines should be served? The most important considerations here are; whether the wine you serve is ready to drink and whether the wine is compatible with the food. There are no hard and fast rules regarding pairing wines with food. Personal tastes vary significantly here. However, one should know what has customarily worked over the years, as there is no reason to reinvent the wheel. Tried and true pairings are handy to have at your disposal. Here are a few:

  • Oysters and Chablis
  • Lamb and red Bordeaux ( or Chianti)
  • Port with blue cheese
  • Salmon with Pinot Noir
  • Braised beef with Barolo (Italian red)
  • Beef or steak with red Burgundy or Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Lobster with Chardonnay
  • Grilled chicken with Beaujolais
  • Chocolate with Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Spicy food such as Sri Lankan and Indian dishes with Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Champagne or Sparkling Wines or red wines such as Gamey, Dolcetto, Grenache, Pinot Noir, Shiraz.

Again, these are suggestions at best and represent what others have found likeable. You should begin to learn what you and your friends like and expand upon your own personal experience.

A safe alternative is always to offer two choices with your meals. This allows those who have very strong likes and dislikes to avoid their dislikes.

How much wine should you buy? If you plan to serve several different bottles with different courses, you will need to buy fewer bottles of each type. Each 750ml bottle of wine provides 5 servings at 150ml each or 6 servings at 125ml each. If you are pairing wine with a meal, plan 1-1.5 serving(s) per course/person. When serving two wines only, plan one bottle of each wine per couple. A simple rule of thumb is that you should have one full bottle of wine per guest (total consumption). While this may sound like it is too much, if you are serving a lot of food spread over several hours, it won’t be too much. It is far better to have too much than too little.

If you’re concerned that your guests may overindulge, be sure that their water glasses are always full so they have an alternative to automatically reaching for the wine.

As a final note, be sure that you have different glasses for each different type of wine. It is not good to expect your guests to drink Cabernet Sauvignon out of the same glass from which they drank Chardonnay – if nothing else, be sure that the glass is rinsed and the traces of the first wine are gone before you pour the next one.

Integrating wine experiences into an event is a great way to create delicious memories and add fun to your party, whether it is a casual get-together with friends or a special occasion!


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