Setting the mood, whether for an intimate dinner for two or party of 12 is effortless if you know your wines.
If you don’t then go to the experts — someone like Christian Robertson, director of sales and marketing at Discovery Wines.
Mr Robertson will tell you that ‘theme’, or certain food around which a party is planned suggests the most suitable wines.
An outdoor barbeque requires dry rosés and crisp white wines, but reds also fit, according to Mr Robertson.
“If you’re having meat on the barbeque, Malbec is a great wine,” said Mr Robertson.
Dinner for two
For an intimate dinner, he recommends starting off with a glass of bubbly.
“It always sets the mood. You don’t have to spend a lot. For $20, you should be able to find a great sparkling wine.”
He suggests the Chilean Cono Sur Brut, which is about $15.
“That’s a really easy kind of entry level sparkling wine. If you want to get a little fancier, Cremant de Bourgogne.
“I like to call it the ‘champagne impostor’. It comes from France, but because it doesn’t come from the region of Champagne, you can’t call it Champagne. Vitteaut-Alberti is the producer.
“If you’re going to have a fish course to start or mussels, start with a white wine, something that’s not going to overpower the dish itself.”
Butterfield Meursault is made by a Bermudian, David Butterfield, who produces wine in Burgundy, France, and retails for $55-$60.
Steak for the second course?
“A big red wine would be something more appropriate. Hedges Red Mountain Reserve is a blend of Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah, three wines from Washington State.”
The price is about $35.
Mr Robertson suggests purchasing half-bottles for your intimate twosome.
“You can find some excellent wines in half-bottles so you’re not wasting a full bottle, and it allows you to have a different wine with each course. Just don’t forget the bubbly at the beginning and the end. Sparkling wine is a great way to finish off an evening as well.”
Dinner for 12
Planning for a larger group can be more challenging.
“It’s a little more difficult because you never really know people’s tastes,” said Mr Robertson.
“I like to consider wines which I consider crowd pleasers — just wines that are usually pretty simple, with not a lot of angles to them.”
He defined ‘angles’ as the tartness that overshadows the taste of foods.
According to the Discovery Wines expert, Liberty School from Paso Robles, California, is a good, inexpensive red wine. It is a Cabernet Sauvignon that goes with everything and sells for about $20.
A good, all-round white wine, the Italian Pinot Grigio has a same grape namesake grown in Oregon, called ‘Pinot Gris’. You can buy Discovery’s ‘Elk Cove’ Pinot Gris for about $20.
Staying within your budget and finding value wines is key. Pair a $15-$25 bottle of Muscadet or Chablis with a shrimp cocktail.
Serve a Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah or Malbec with beef, or a French Sauvignon Blanc at $15-$40 with grilled wahoo.
“Salmon is one of the few fish that you can do with red wines,” Mr Robertson said.
“Salmon has a lot of flavour to it, and the oils in salmon go well with Pinot Noir. The oils of the fish usually react with the tannins in red wine, so you want a wine with low tannins.” A Pinot Noir from Burgundy, France or Oregon costs $20 up to $320.
With ‘gamey’ fish, the tannins provoke a metallic taste. Mr Robertson suggests a white wine with good acidity like a Sauvignon Blanc or Chablis.
White Burgundies of the kind that don’t have too much oak and are fruit-driven, go well with roast chicken. Look for good value in these 100 per cent Chardonnays, with Louis Jadot’s Pernand Vergelleses at $20-$25, or the $20 Deerfield Chardonnay from California.
A Pinot Noir suits pork with a demi-glaze or brown sauce, while a dry Riesling like the $25 Chehalem Riesling complements pork served with apples.
And don’t forget dessert. For about $30, the versatile Bordeaux Chateau Loupiac is a baby Sauterne that pairs with any sweet.
Mr Robertson noted the general rule of matching wine to the sauce: A blackberry sauce, for example, that would otherwise overpower a steak; a butter sauce on a fish, requiring acidity to cut through the fat and complement the sauce; or a less acidic wine like Viognier for fish with a pineapple salsa.
How much wine should you allow for per guest?
“If you have food, people will always drink more, so we always do a half bottle to three-quarters of a bottle per person. If there’s not food, usually two glasses to a half bottle,” he said.
People now also use wine as a cocktail, so start with the traditional and add a few bottles for back-up.
For more information on Discovery Wines’ wholesale and home delivery retail, view www.discoverywines.bm or call 332-9463.