Modern guidelines for Food, Wine, Drinks, Functions and Restaurants.
Three major trends have developed that cause the traditional wine cellaring approach to need change.
Remember the procedure with a waiter when the cork was removed and you had to taste it? Many say that it is not required for scew caps. It is! The incidence of a problem is far less but screw caps can be damaged (usually because the carton of wine has been dropped and the seals on some of the screw caps have broken). Insist on a taste even when the wine is sealed with a screw cap.
"Natural Wine" is a term bandied around. There really isnt a precise definition although one hardened group insists it means wine with no added acid (adding tartaric acid, the same acid as found naturally in grapes, is common in Australian wine making).
Not only does natural wine indicate lesser additives and a healthier product, it is a term that signifies an attitude by the wine maker - supposedly to be true to the flavour and condition of the grapes in the location. Hence it has become a marketing term and is often discussed by restaurant sommeliers.
Italian wines are trendy. The grape varieties in Italy are different from the French grapes that traditionally are grown in Australia. Whereas the French varieties have higher alcohol and harmonise well with oak barrels, Italian varieties are lighter, drier and if a red, more tannic. However as a drink that is easy or with modern bistro Mediterranean style food, that style of wine is a good thing. Look for white wines of Fiano, Vermentino, Arneis and Cortese; and reds of Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto, Lagrein, Montepulciano, Primitivo and others.
People get into their routines and a different meal time can be quite upsetting. European adults notoriously eat much later in the evenings than the English, Americans, Australians and others. Older retired people tend to eat earlier. If travelling with older people, the latter often want food around dusk – yet in Europe few restaurants will have opened at this time. A good suggestion is to have a substantial “snack” on hand (such as cheese and biscuits) that can be brought out for the hungry ones at dusk and allow them to wait until a later dinner.
This is a classic problem – especially the conversation dominating type. You have to do your best to skirt around the inevitable long winded noise. Wait for a briefest of lulls and introduce a new topic; talk to another person.
If the weather is hot, chill the reds. Remember that reds are served at European room temperature which is about 18 – 20° Celsius. If you think that your most of your guests will appreciate slightly chilled reds but there may be a real traditionalist who objects, then don’t let him see you take the red from the refrigerator. Don’t serve it too cold though!
Use good glasses. A good glass is clear (not frosted, not blue, not stenciled with a pattern, nor made of metal) so you can appreciate the colour of a wine. It should be a tulip shape so that the space above the surface of the wine holds aroma. They are not necessarily expensive. Look in better wine stores. If you are keen on wine then buy better glasses – a wide range is available all the way to state of the art Riedel branded specialist glasses. It is bad etiquette to serve a guest’s good wine in tumblers, blue coloured glasses, or in straight sided or splay sided glasses.