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We may have food down cold, but wine? This is where we'll conquer it. Join us; we don't want to drink alone.
Today: Find yourself waiting? Grab a glass -- we know what to pour.
A few weeks ago it was my turn to host book club, and I had prepared dinner for eight people who were due to arrive at 7. At 6:30, the doorbell rang. There stood my friend Jim, all smiles. “Am I early?” he asked.
Jim, fully aware of my love for wine and hospitality, knew he’d set us both up for a little something extra to sip. Not that I was complaining. But it made me wonder: what do you drink while you wait for the others to arrive? Or while you wait for your table at a restaurant, or for dinner to cook?
First thing's first: go low alcohol.
You want to keep your guests happy, but not too happy. A good rule of thumb is to choose a wine that is 12.5% alcohol by volume or lower, which is a number you can usually find on the lower right side of the bottle’s label.
Choose a wine with balanced acidity.
In wine speak, balanced acidity is also known as "structure." Think of it as the wine's skeleton; it means that the wine has the bones to stand up to what you'll be eating. (Wines with good acidity are typically very food-friendly.)
When you find an aromatic grape, stop looking.
Get the most out of your wait with a wine that’s floral, aromatic and pleasant to drink -- grapes like Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, and Gewürtztraminer will do this for you almost every time.
When in Doubt, Choose Bubbles
Sparkling wine is tough to beat: it’s seriously underrated as a food-friendly pairing, plus it’s just plain fun. Order a glass if you’re out, or stock up at home, affordably. Less pricey alternatives to authentic Champagne from the Champagne region of France include wines from New York’s Long Island (Martha Clara Brut), California (Scharffenberger Excellence Brut), New Mexico (Gruet Blanc de Noirs), and sparkling Torrontes from Argentina (Raza Dolce).
What We Pour
If we’re in our own kitchen, one option is to drink the wine we’re cooking with. (I, for one, am a much better cook with a glass of wine close at hand.) But as Jim and I walked into my kitchen that evening, I knew exactly what I'd be reaching for -- a white Bordeaux from Chateau Ducasse. At the moment, this is my house wine, which means it fits all of those guidelines above, plus it's extremely well-vetted: I like it, it’s easily available, it isn’t very expensive, and I always keep a few bottles in the house. (Bonus: nearly every wine shop will give you a discount if you buy six bottles or more.)
Next time you taste a wine you really like, snap a picture of the label, and take it to your local wine shop. Buy a few bottles, and there you go! Your very own house wine to serve guests on the early side.
Above all, go with the flow.
Start looking at choosing wine amongst your (also waiting) dining companions as an opportunity to try new things. Case in point: my husband and his family, who are Belgian, are in the habit of drinking Port wine before meals. It’s not customary, but it works for them and, when I’m in their company, it works for me too.
Photos by James Ransom