Table setting with salad and three wine glasses

How to pour a good impression

Many hosts feel intimidated by guests who possibly know more about wine than they do. What wine to serve with what food and whether you should offer guests a choice of wine, are but a few of the uncertainties.

Break the ice by opening something impressive like a Pierre Jourdan Brut Méthode Cap Classique. Versatile and food-friendly with a beautiful freshness of green apple and lime, and just the right amount of toasty notes.
Alternatively, serve a white, dry rosé or red wine that can be sipped on with no substantial food to break their fall on the palate. Suitable reds tend to be light-bodied and low in tannins, such as a fruity Laborie Merlot or a Paradyskloof Pinot Noir.

Start the meal with lighter dishes and lighter wines. Both should get stronger in weight, body and flavour as the meal progresses. You want every wine to taste even better than the one before, besides blending perfectly with the food you’re serving. The classic dinner party wine guidelines are as follows:

•    White wine before red wine
•    Light wine before heavy wine
•    Dry wine before sweet wine
•    Simple wine before complex, richly flavoured wine

Each of these principles operates independently. And the rules are flexible, provided you know your wines. For example, a very light red wine paired with duck salad works perfectly before a rich, full-bodied white with herbed chicken. If the food you’re serving calls for white wine, there’s really no reason that both wines can’t be white: a simpler, lighter white followed by a richer, fuller-bodied white. Likewise, both wines can be red, or you can serve a dry rosé followed by a red.

To my mind and palate, sweet wines taste more delicious drunk on their own (or with cheese) than they do with most sweet food. Any reasonably sweet wine with a fair degree of acidity can be delicious after a meal, or, once again, reverting to a bubbly will never go amiss.

How much wine is enough for a dinner party? A general rule of thumb is one bottle of wine per guest. While this may sound like a lot, if you are serving a number of courses over several hours, it won't be too much. Keep guests’ water glasses full to ensure they don’t overindulge. By giving a separate glass for each wine, guests don’t feel compelled to finish one wine before going on to the next.

Whether you're hosting a formal dinner, a cocktail party or a carefree summer braai, it's hard to go wrong with wine, friends and food. Whatever the occasion, open a bottle, raise a glass, and enjoy the celebration