Entertaining friends and family at home is so much fun, from planning the meal and dishes to setting a beautiful table and getting to enjoy good company.
I have always been a big fan of entertaining at home. While it can bring a little nervous excitement into the kitchen, the main thing is to have fun, relax and plan well in advance.
Food is often the least of your worries and one thing that can tend to be more intimidating is deciding on the wine to serve. Do you pick just one crowd-pleaser? Red or white? Or go with pairings for each course?
Wine sommelier and educator, Brigid O’Hora, offers some advice for trying to pick wines.
“First thing to remember is pair up the weight,” she explains. “Think about the weight of the ingredients in terms of flavour intensity and remember that that needs to be matched with wine.”
This means that if your dish is light and fresh, you can pick a wine that matches this in weight. However, if you’ve got lots of heavy, rich food, it would be best to pick a wine that is equally as full-bodied.
“It can be tricky to match ingredients to wine because if you’re over seasoning and spicing your dish, it can sour the wine pairing,” says Brigid. “For example, if you’re serving white fish and you choose the wine well enough to go with the fish, you can throw it off balance by serving it with a wedge of lemon. In this instance, a Portuguese or Spanish albariño or vino verde are wines with a lot of salinity. Their vineyards are coastal so they’ve already got the characteristics of seasonings like salt and lemon, so you don’t need to add too much as the wine pairing does this for you.”
It is true that some wines are just made to be enjoyed with food and therefore will work well with lots of dishes.
“Remember the wines that have high tannin level and high acidity are most definitely food wines and will taste better with food,” advises Brigid. “Tannins are the dry mouth feel or physical sensation you get when you drink wine with them in it and acidity is the opposite and is felt in the mouth by making your saliva glands work. While a lump of cheese will melt a high tannin level in wine, a wine with good acidity level will help clear your palate of the rich foods and the fatiness from those foods. Without acidity your mouth gets tired, so it’s generally a good thing in wine.”
If you’re still not sure what to pick and you want to go with a crowd-pleaser that will cover a lot of people’s tastes, then Brigid has a suggestion for this.
“A safe bet, or I should say a safe country, is France. French wines can seem a bit odd to young or new wine drinkers but they are a great option really as they are very well structured for food. If you’re having a dinner party – sauvignon blanc is good for a light starter and a syrah or cabernet sauvignon are nice for main course. While people say the French wine labelling can be daunting, remember that French wines are designed for food. There are serious quality laws in place so that the end product is superb – and while you pay a little bit more, it’s worth it.”
Follow Brigid O’Hora on Instagram @brideys_wine_chats
Salmon with crispy potatoes, samphire and gremolata
Pair with Bodegas Rafael Palacios Louro Godello, Valdeorras, 2021 (Whelehan’s Wines, €27)
Palacios is the godfather of Spanish white wine. This godello is rich and structured with generous flavours of apricot fruit and white flowers. However, there’s a charming touch of salinity that is ideal for pairing with the robust yet delicious samphire and gremolata.
Fish cakes with lemon mayonnaise
Pair with Geal Albariño, Galicia, 2021 (O’Brien’s nationwise, €19.95)
Galicia is a wine region located along the Spanish west coast. Vineyards are coastal, so the grapes benefit from cooling sea breezes and salt in the air, which rests on the skins of the grapes. They’re such ideal seafood wines with big tropical fruit flavours and a crisp acidity that will slice through any fish. The combination of the citrus acidity and salinity act like natural seasonings to the fish you are serving.
Peach Melba panna cotta
Pair with Folias de Baco Uivo Rose Pet Nat Douro (The Nude Wine Co website with delivery nationwide, €23.50)
This lightly sparkling rosé wine is made with a touch of residual sugar on the palate to balance out the ample acidity. The ripe strawberries and raspberries on the palate pair well with the white stone fruit flavours in the panna cotta. But, most importantly, the lightness of the wine marries well with the lightness of panna cotta.