Menu - check, décor - check, entertainment - check, wine – well?
It can be intimidating preparing the wine portion of a dinner party when there is always at least one self-proclaimed wine expert in the mix.
In the first episode of reality cooking series, Come Dine With Me South Africa, pole dancing host Carmi van Heerdens caused a stir with her "wine is wine" comment (see the clip below).
The conversation took speed through the coming episodes with conflicting views on the ideal temperature to serve wines at, to what wine pairs well with different dishes and in many cases the lack of a variety of wines to enjoy at subsequent dinners.
To ensure your next dinner party is a success - on the wine front at least - the team of sommeliers at Somm Hospitality Enterprises in Stellenbosch, shared some essential wine tips to get you started and thinking like a connoisseur.
Sommelier Joakim Blackadder says “the first rule of wine is there are no rules, it’s all about the enjoyment”.
Great wine deserves great glassware. Generally the thinner the glassware the better the tactile experience of the wine. Go for medium sized glassware, tulip shaped and preferably stemless if you think things might get rowdy.
More is better. Not necessarily in quantity but in range – there are so many different varieties of wine to choose from, be brave and experiment.
Serve it blind - the wine that is! Invest in some bottle socks or decant the wine. Relying on taste alone offers your guests an opportunity to enjoy the selection without reservation.
Don’t buy expensive wine. Great wine needs time to integrate, soften and open up. If you’re looking to splurge buy back vintages directly from wine farms or buy your favourites today and cellar it.
All wines can benefit from a little time to breath. Lighter whites can be served straight from the bottle or, if the smell is slightly musty, let it stand in a decanter for approximately 15 minutes before serving. Richer, more full bodied whites, can benefit from up to an hour or two decanting while a young, tannic, expensive red, can be decanted up to three or four hours before serving.
Serve at the correct temperature. If a wine is too warm or too cold, it loses its flavour balance making it substantially less enjoyable. Average room temperature is warmer than an ideal serving temperature. Ideally lighter whites can be served at fridge temperature, the fuller and wooded whites a little bit warmer around 10 degrees while the lighter reds are flavourful when served slightly chilled at 16 degrees and the full-bodied reds are at their best at 18 degrees.
If you serve multiple wines, try to avoid continuing with a wine that is lighter than its predecessor.
Lighter, unwooded and fruitier whites such as sauvignon blanc and some versions of chenin blanc works well with fresher and lighter dishes, such as salads.
Lighter reds with lower tannin, such as crunchy cinsault and elegant pinot noir can be paired with a broad variety of food from tuna to milder red meat, and especially spicy dishes, such as a curry.
Full-bodied reds with tannin, such as cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and many blends, are mostly geared towards heartier dishes such as red meat, game and stews. These wines often overpower delicate foods but can be enjoyed with milder cheeses.
Dessert time – consider including a South African sweet wine to the menu. Noble Late Harvest wines often have a beautiful balance between sweetness and acidity. Ensure your dessert is not substantially sweeter than the wine.
For more entertaining tips watch Come Dine With Me South Africa, on BBC BRIT (DSTV channel 120), Thursdays at 8pm.