An extract for the Diwali Issue of BBC GoodHomes:
1)Before you plan a wine and cheese party at home, what are the basic things that one should keep in mind?
Well to begin with how many people are coming, making sure you have enough wine glasses, decanters, cheese boards, cheese knives and accompaniments to go along with the cheese and wine like crackers, olives, balsamic vinegar and select fruit.
2)If it’s a wine and cheese party, what should be the host’s perfect shopping list?
Lots of wine and cheese to begin with ! different styles of wine and an assortment of cheese. I like to open up a range of styles – 2 to 3 reds, a rose´, some sparkling and 2 to 3 whites if I have enough guests. This way everyone has get their style of wine that they prefer, everyone can experiment and move from one wine to the other and also because a variety of cheese will be served, there will be a wine that is simply delicious with that cheese instead of doing an assortment of cheese that has to go with one or two wines.
I’m a stickler for glassware so ensure you have the right glasses. I also think decanters not only help in opening up the wine but look fantastic on any table. A couple of decanters in different shapes will make that table even more inviting.
3)What are the absolute must-have wines that one should stock?
That’s a very personal choice since one persons taste will differ from another but generally , Champagne and or high quality sparkling wine. Red, rose and whites from all over the world showcasing a range of varieties, a couple of dessert wines. A few top end wines from those special occasions or if you’re like me then top end wines for today. If stocking wine at home then invest in a wine fridge, not only does it look super but will help you maintain the quality of your wines in the right way. When I have guests from out of town I usually pull out my stock of favourite Indian wines just to show what we can do here as well.
4)Which wine goes with which cheese?
All of them. The world of wine and also cheese for that matter is just so large that there is always a wine to go along any kind of cheese. Keep in mind that wines with high acidity, Sauvignon Blanc or sparkling wine for example will go with softer cheeses, wines in high tannin structure will go with hard cheeses. Pair semi hard cheese’s with medium bodied wines. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Instead of trying your favourite blue cheese with a sweet wine which works wonderfully, also try with a full bodied tannic red and see if that works for you, you might prefer it.
5)When you are choosing your wines, what are the aspects that you look for?
I like to experiment with wines I have not tasted before so I am looking for something new. Perhaps a new grape variety, producer or region I have not come across before or experimented with enough. But when entertaining its important to make sure that your guests aren’t the guinea pigs unless they themselves have a thirst for experimentation as well. I generally keep a few crowd pleasers and also a couple of wines that I know will be completely new to everybody.
6)What’s your secret mantra to be a perfect host?
Really simple. Be warm and hospitable and make sure your guests glass is always full.
Written by: Nikhil Agarwal – Director & Sommelier, All Things Nice