April 01, 2002
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio April 2002 Current Issue
April 2002 Food&BeveragePLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:

Food & Beverage

BY Joshua Miles


Plenty of good, inexpensive vintages will suit most palates at a catered event

Event budgets might be under siege, but decent wines can be found without breaking the bank or offending taste buds. When making selections, consider the following advice.

Keep it simple. It’s wise, unless wine is the focus of the event, not to have too many choices. In general, two reds and two whites should suffice.

Keep it in the bottle. For receptions, it’s nice to have a wine station and hire someone who can talk about the wines. Display bottles on the table so people can see the labels. There will always be a wine snob at any event, but the person pouring will have fewer questions to answer if the bottles are in full view.

Avoid pouring the wine ahead of time. It’s more elegant to have someone pour individual glasses. And it’s practical: If you pour out all the white, it gets warm; sparkling wine can go flat.

Check the temperature. The rule is: Serve red wines at room temperature, white wines with a slight chill.

Generally, with a relatively casual lunch, the perfect wine and food pairing is not so critical. Offer one white and one red wine. For whites, go with a dry variety, like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris something crisp and lively.

As for reds, an inexpensive Pinot Noir would work, or maybe a Montepulciano from Italy or a Shiraz from Australia. These have lots of fruit and not a lot of tannin, which comes from grape skins and leaves a drying sensation in the mouth.

For a reception, go classic by pouring sparkling wine. By all means, look beyond the true Champagnes made only in France. An Italian Prosecco or a Cava from Spain can be excellent values. (Cava is made in the traditional methods of Champagne, yet it costs much less.)

For a nonsparkling wine at a reception, I would stay with a crisp white. Reds are heavier, more complicated. You don’t want to serve a wine that people have to think about; you want it to be instantly drinkable, immediately pleasing. Lighter Chardonnays (some especially good choices come from New Zealand) are definitely crowd pleasers, crisp and light. Pinot Blanc also is good, or even Vinho Verde from Portugal.

When thinking about dinner wines, first focus on the food. The adage, “white wine with fish, red wine with meat” is old school nobody pays any attention to it any more. Try to find food-friendly wines that have a good balance between acidity, body and tannin, especially when choosing reds.

One simple way to pair wine with food is if the cuisine is regional, pick a wine from the same region. If there’s a theme for the food, pick a wine that fits with that theme. For example, if you’re serving bratwurst, find a good German Riesling.

If value is important, rest assured there are a number of good wines priced at about $120 or less per case. Following are a few to try.

To serve anytime. From Argentina, Santa Julia makes great Merlots and Torrontes (a white variety, like Sauvignon Blanc). Australian winemaker Buckeley’s offers a Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz blend and a white Semillon/Chardonnay blend.

To serve in flutes. A fine sparkling wine from Italy is Tonon’s Prosecco. A Spanish Cava to try comes from Montsarra.

Lunch choices. For a crisp white, try the Bodegas Lurton Pinot Gris from Argentina or the Coopers Creek Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling from New Zealand.

Two good red choices are Moillard’s Languedoc Pinot Noir from France, and from Italy, the Il Marrucino Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.

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