Published 25. Jan. 2016

How to be a good host and select the right wine?

Retail and Consumer

by Petteri Harjula


Selecting the Wines

There are two equally important factors here: your guests and the food. With red wine, you might first want to check if someone in the party does not drink it. One way to avoid asking questions – and to overcome the challenge of your guests’ versatile food choices – is to order a bottle of white and red.

There is not enough space here to go through all the intricacies of pairing wine with food. Suffice to say: don’t overdo it. Old rules still work well: full-bodied red with meat, lighter, acidic white with fish.

Good sommelier will help you to match your wine with your food – a great one will help you to match it with your guests, as well. Giving them hints about what kind of wines you like expedites the process. If needed, ask the reasoning behind the recommendation. Sommelier’s reply will convince you that they are a true expert – or reveal that they don’t know Shiraz from Sauvignon.

Tasting the Wines

The original reason for tasting the wine, is to check if the particular bottle is in good condition. You are not tasting it to find out, if you like it or not. It also means that every bottle needs to be tasted, as waiters tend to forget this, so pay attention.

If the sommelier gives you the cork, you can look at it and even sniff it, however it probably tells you nothing. If the wine has an aroma reminiscent of sherry or madeira, it may be oxidised – unless, of course there is sherry or madeira in your glass. If the wine has a mouldy smell of an old cellar, it’s corked. Sometimes corked wine is only detectable by its unpleasant palate, lacking in fruit and dominated by acidity.

If you suspect there’s something wrong with the wine, ask the waiter to pour some wine into your glass and let it sit for a while. The smell in a faulty wine will get worse in a few minutes.

If you’re lucky, the sommelier will taste the wine before you letting you off the hook (though you naturally still have the final say). Note that any wine may be corked – even sparkling wine or a bottle with a screw cap (although the latter is very rare).

Tempering the Wines

The proper serving temperature for red wine is about 16-18 degrees Centigrade (considerably cooler than room temperature) and for white about 12-14. If you feel the wine – red or white – is too warm, ask for a cooler with ice and water (without water the ice won’t work). If the wine feels too cold, just wait.

Remember that a good host is discreet. There are many reasons why people don´t want to drink wine. Take care that there are also alcohol-free options to offer. Last, but not least, wine is not so serious business, it is also for fun.