The great British weekend has changed. The pub used to figure largely in our social occasions: but with pubs closing at shocking weekly rates, still, and the price of buying alcohol for home consumption significantly lower than the cost of a pint or a glass of wine in the local boozer, our hangout of choice is now our own home.
There’s a lot to recommend putting on a social evening at home, beyond the simple fact of price. When you buy wine for home consumption you can choose more freely – i.e. you’re not trammelled by the choice of wines the pub has already made for you. Plus you can choose the music, and put it at a volume level that actually allows everyone to hear what’s being said…
The Home Wine Club
Starting a home based wine club can be an excellent way to broaden your tastes and share a hobby with your friends. It doesn’t have to be weekly, once a month will do – and every month you have it in a different home, with the home owner picking the wine and cheese selection for the night. You can even theme the whole thing, with music appropriate to the country of origin of the wines; and maybe a suitable film to top it off.
The two most obvious ways to theme films for a wine evening: pick films about wine (there are a few, including Bottle Shock and Sideways); or pick films, like the music, endemic to the country of origin. Italian wine? Il Postino, perhaps, or Life is Beautiful. French wine: L’Appartement; Delicatessen; L’Isle de les Enfants Perdu… the list is endless.
Wine and Cheese
Wine and cheese make a great pairing, though it’s good to be careful. Red wine goes with most cheese, for example, while white wine requires a specific type of cheese to really bring out the complementary flavours. Nutty cheeses, like an Emmenthal, go well with crisp whites. There’s also a school of thought that says a really deep veined blue cheese and a Sauterne make perfect partners after a meal.
To Eat or Not to Eat…
…that is the question. Wine and cheese is one thing; a full meal followed by a wine and cheese course is quite another. The kind of meal that would warrant a wine and cheese ending is probably too much to ask members of a regular group to put together; if you’re having a one-off evening, though, well that’s a different matter.
If you do extend the wine party to a full dinner party, make sure you do some research on what wines to serve with which courses. A local wine merchant should be able to point you in the direction of a number of options – both traditional and modern – for matching wine varieties with different foods.
If in doubt, follow the age-old rule: red with red, white with white.
Bubbles and Food
Champagne, or sparkling wine, and food? There’s a question that crops up regularly among wine lovers. Traditionally, champagne is drunk with “luxury” foods: oysters; caviar; smoked salmon. It goes very well with most seafood, in fact, and can make a delightful complement to a lighter cheese. Don’t expect to mix bubbles with Stilton or a rich Cheddar, though. The traditional taste combination of strong cheese with deep reds or dessert wines is there for a reason – the bold flavours combine to give a really heady symphony in the mouth.
One of the great things about home entertainment is being liberated from the tyranny of the pub jukebox. No more loud dance music cutting into your conversations and your meal. Good wine and good conversation go hand in hand. Plus, when you’re entertaining on your own ground you only have to let in who you like – so you don’t have to listen to the table next to you talking about football all night either.
jane is a food writer. To research the food and wine combinations mentioned
here, she used sparkling
wine from Telegraph wines.