In my last post, I wrote about wine and food pairings and made a few suggestions regarding which wines might pair well with a selection of Two Dancing Buckeyes recipes. Now, regarding wine and hosting, I recommend having, at least, a small variety of choices at any gathering. First of all, it’s the mark of a good host to accommodate the major differences in preferences of red or white and, within the reds and whites, of sweet or not so sweet (i.e. dry). To thoroughly cover the bases might require six to eight choices: a sweet, dry and middle-of-the-road red (3), the same for whites (3), a rosé(1) and something with bubbles–a champagne, a sparkling or a moscato (1), totaling eight. And, of course, it’s a nice gesture to have some beer on hand for that person who “does not drink wine” and some soft drinks (don’t forget sugar-free and/or caffeine-free choices) or fruit drinks, as well as bottled water, for those who do not wish to drink beer or wine. Whew! Sounds like a pretty big job. Not really. All of the above can be kept on hand for quite a while (when it is best to drink various wines and how long they may be kept will be discussed in a soon-to-follow posting), so you may find it helpful to gradually accumulate a variety of beverages to have on hand. In this way, you will be reasonably prepared for an impromptu gathering. The only things you may need are a cooler and a bag of ice. No, I haven’t forgotten your friends who prefer mixed drinks. However, to accommodate such preferences requires a great deal more inventory, expense, accessories and preparation. You must decide for yourself how far in that direction you wish to go. However, that’s another story for another writer.
As for wine, if you purchase what you want for a particular occasion, as you go, it can be a bit expensive. However, if you make purchases on an on-going basis, perhaps buying a case, from time to time, of something you like and/or that may be on sale, you will gradually expand your inventory. You may visit a winery and, after tasting a variety, bring home some bottles of something you enjoyed. Or you might attend a wine-tasting at a restaurant or wine store and find some varieties you wish to have. There is much less guess-work with this method. Recently, a favorite restaurant of mine hosted a particular wine-maker for a tasting. Such events are usually very reasonably priced and may include appetizers. The object is to acquaint you with the wine and, hopefully, sell some to you. It is also very interesting and informative to talk with the winemaker. I came home with a case which included a number of varieties. Most purchases, by the case, are discounted, depending on the applicable state laws (a case consisting of twelve bottles). Many larger grocery stores are expanding their wine sections to include a greater variety at a wide range of prices. Oftentimes, they will offer tastings of a featured wine for as little as $0.25 or $0.50, and that wine will be on sale that day. This is another good opportunity to expand your reserve supply. If you acquire a variety, over a period of time, you will be better prepared to accommodate the varying tastes of your guests or your own range of choices depending on your food and mood.
Two other ways to be prepared are 1) check with your guests ahead of time as to their preferences and 2) request guests, to a planned event, to bring one bottle of a wine they like, to share. If you plan to serve a wine which is new to you, it’s a good idea to conduct your own tasting, in advance, to be sure it is what you expect and want. This will also give you an opportunity to try different foods with the wine. Sometimes, a pop-in guest will bring a bottle of wine along and say something like “let’s try this and see what we think.” That’s a fun way to experience a new wine. And, of course, you might do the same when you are the visitor. Your host will appreciate it.
Having a proper place to store your wine is important in building and maintaining a good supply. I have a friend who lives in a nice, older country home, the kind which typically has a fruit cellar (sometimes a room formerly used for coal) and his house has one. Such places are dark and cool and usually stay at a fairly constant temperature. Although he had been a life-long beer drinker and had little interest in wine, I was able to get him to expand his horizons to include wine. We joined a wine club together, which gave us a good chance to taste a variety of wines, and he gradually found where his preferences lay. He began to accumulate wines and, one day, boastfully announced (having cleaned out his fruit cellar to store his wines—temperature control being a significant point here—more on this later), “I have a WINE CELLAR, you only have a basement” (one-upsmanship being a game we tend to play). I replied to him that, while I may only have a basement, he never seems to have any trouble finding something he likes when he goes there. It’s all in good humor and a part of enjoying the journey. Until next time, please do enjoy the journey.