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Wine Wise - How To Serve Wine

( Originally Published 1933 )

AMONG gourmets it has always been a moot question whether, in a properly designed meal, the wine should be chosen as an aid to the enjoyment of the food, or the food chosen merely as a foil to enhance the merits of the wine.

In the instance of elaborate and carefully planned dinners, accompanied by rare and distinguished wines, there may be some room for debate on this question. But in the case of simpler meals, certainly in most American homes, the food comes first and the wine is selected to make the food taste better.

However, wine is not merely a beverage to be used to wash the food down. A good wine is certainly much more than something to drink just to quench thirst. The enjoyment of both wine and food can be increased greatly if the right wine is selected to accompany the food and if the wine is properly served.

Correct service of the right wine is more than simply a gracious ceremony for the fastidious host. It has been learned by generations of experience that certain wines do complement certain foods naturally and that they are actually a great aid to digestion.

Most discussions of wines in their relation to foods have centered around the dinner of several courses, each of which is accompanied by a different wine. This is all right for the party dinner or the one that may be served in a wealthy home where elaborate service is available.

But in the average home it is seldom that more than two or three wines are served with a meal and more often only one type. For myself, as a man of moderate tastes, I would not ask for more than three wines at a meal-one, such as a Sherry, served before the meal as an aperitif; second, a dry wine served during the meal; and finally, a sweet wine served as a liqueur after the meal.

The dry wine served with the meal is the one that calls most for the exercise of good judgment on the part of the host or hostess in selecting the wine. There is one general rule that anyone may follow easily: simply serve red wine with red meats and white wines with white meats.

If you are going to have steak for your entrée, a Claret, Zinfandel, Chianti or Burgundy is just the thing. If you are having a roast, you will enjoy it much more with one of these wines. To those who are accustomed to taking Claret with their red meat, it is just as essential to have a red wine as it is to have mayonnaise or drawn butter served with artichokes or asparagus. The red meats, of course, are roast lamb, roast beef, steaks and chops. I would also serve Claret with pork, either a roast or chops.

With a chicken dinner or white-fish dinner nothing is more enjoyable than a white wine of a Riesling or a dry Sauterne type.

Never serve a red wine with fish, unless it be red salmon, and try to avoid serving white wines with red meats, not because they are hostile to each other, but because the delicacy of the white wine is over-shadowed by the strong taste of red meat or game.

Chablis is a fine wine to accompany oysters.

Never serve a Haut Sauterne with the piece de resistance, no matter what it may be. Sweet Sauterne is fine with desserts, but not with entrées.

If your main dish is game, such as wild duck, or even domestic duck, you should serve a red wine, preferably Burgundy. Turkey presents a problem because there you are serving both dark and white meat. Either red or white wine may be served. Sparkling wines, both red and white, go well with game.

If you are having a vegetarian dinner, serve white -wine. If soup is the main course, as is often the case in many homes, serve a Sherry.

With egg dishes, to my mind, no wine is exactly right, but in most cases I would choose a white type.

With cheese dishes, such as cheese soufflé, either red or white wines may be served.

With pastes, such as spaghetti, ravioli, tamales and macaroni dishes, serve red wine.

With baked ham, serve red wine, although ham is often embellished with a white-wine sauce.

Champagne is usually served with the dessert, while Sparkling Burgundy may be served in the place of still Burgundy with the entrée. However, the real duty of Champagne is to serve as a drink for toasts to the health and happiness of the diners.

Now suppose that you were planning a formal party which is to be an event with several courses and you want the right wine to accompany each course. The wine card should be as follows:

As an appetizer, serve a dry Sherry at the temperature of the room. With the hors d'oeuvres about twenty minutes before dinner it has the quality of exciting the appetite and of stimulating vivacity quickly.

With oysters, or seafood cocktails, serve Chablis or dry Sauterne, cooled to about 55 degrees.

With soup, Sherry may be served, at the temperature of the room.

With the fish or chicken course, serve a dry white wine, preferably Riesling, Moselle or Sauterne. White wines are renowned as aids to digestion of fish, whereas red wines contain tannin and are said to be hostile to fish.

With the entre'e, if it is roast beef, steak, chops, pork, turkey or game, serve a dry red wine, preferably Claret, Chianti, Grignolino or Burgundy, at the temperature of the cellar.

With desserts, whether fruits or pastries, serve Haut Sauterne or Champagne, chilled.

With black coffee, serve Grape Brandy, either separate or as a "café royale."

For after-dinner liqueurs, Port, Sherry, Tokay, Muscatel or Angelica.

When several wines are served, one after another, at a dinner, each wine should be served in the appropriate glass. Salted nuts, crackers or a bite of bread may be used to take the taste of the previous wine from the mouth and prepare it for the next one to come.

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