How to Choose Wines Before and After Dinner


There are times before a meal when only a beer, martini or stiff gin and tonic will do. But wine has star performers of its own. Fino sherry, for instance. It’s nutty, tangy, intense and absolutely bone-dry. Served chilled right down, I have yet to find a better match with pre-dinner nibbles, and its lack of bubbles means you won’t get bloated.

Talking of bubbles, what about champagne? Yes, it’s a bit of a splurge, but cheaper sparkling wines can do a reasonable job for less-special occasions — just make sure the wine you choose is dry (or brut in French).

In summer a fresh, chilled white like a Riesling, Muscadet or Sauvignon Blanc can be a refreshing intro to a meal, and has the advantage that it might well carry on happily with the food.

How to Choose Wines Before and After Dinner  Wines After Dinner

But I’d think twice before serving red wine before a meal. It can swamp your taste buds and whatever food is coming next. If you’ve got fairly flavoursome nibbles, a chilled dry amontillado sherry (absolutely gorgeous — rich, nutty and tangy) is a classy option and won’t go off if you leave it open for a few weeks.

When it comes to drinks after a meal, you’re looking at the opposite end of the flavour spectrum. Instead of dry and light, you’re looking for sweet and rich — the equivalent of a soothing massage for your palate rather than pre-exercise stretches.

Oddly, some sweet wines can be almost too unctuous on their own, and need food — Sauternes is a case in point — but those with a naturally higher acidity such as German Riesling (Auslese or Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA)) are a good post-dinner treat.

Sweeter champagnes used to be hugely popular, and are a suitably decadent end to an evening. But for most people the traditional last wine is a fortified: Madeira or sweet sherry (occasionally) or, more likely, a port. Ruby ports are the cheapest, but late-bottled vintages (LBV) or tawnies give far more bang for your buck. Vintage port has undeniable class, but you need to know how to serve it. All ports work with cigars to a degree.

Decanting vintage port

Vintage port is unfiltered, which means it has sediment in the bottle. To ensure this doesn’t end up in your glass, you need to decant it. Leave the bottle to stand upright for a couple of hours to settle, then pour it ever so slowly into your decanter (or jug if you don’t have one) a few hours before serving.

If you carry out this process over a candle or a light, you’ll see the sediment start to gather at the shoulder of the bottle. When it’s about to come over the shoulder and down the bottle’s neck, stop. There’ll probably be half an inch of port left in the bottle.

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Related posts:

  1. How to Pick the Right Wines for Christmas
  2. How to Buy a Wine as a Gift
  3. How to Pick the Right Wine for Dinner Party
  4. How to Choose the Perfect Wine for Your Dinner Party
  5. How to Pick the Right Wine for Sporting Occasions and Picnics

Filed Under: Food & Cooking

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About the Author: Leona Kesler is a head-chef at a very popular food restaurant in New York. Also she is a blogger who shares her experiences, tips, and other informative details about food and cooking. Her recipes are featured on many magazines.

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