Wine blunders when dining

Have you ever sat at a dinner pretending to savour an experience then food, wine and dessert all fell short of enrapturing your taste buds?

Local beverage distiller, distributor and importer Kenya Wine Agencies Limited (Kwal) recently organised an exclusive dining experience, as part of the celebration of South Africa’s 100 years of wine-making.

Kwal distributes South African wine brands, including Cellar Cask and Drostdy-Hof.

South Africa’s history and tradition of wine production is fast catching up with and matching old-world wine producers.

The slightly chilly evening started off with the Nederburg Cuvee Brut sparkling wine. This featured a pairing of two Durbanville Collectors Reserve white wines and two Alto (alto means high) red wines.

The Alto 1693 is a revered bold and structured rare red blend. Its sister Alto Cabernet Sauvignon is among the top 10 investment wines from South Africa. Durbanville Collectors Reserve Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are made from hand-harvested grapes from select parcels.

Victoria Munywoki, a veteran wine consultant took the attendees through the common mistakes that people often commit that either water down a dining experience or turn one into a flat-out catastrophe.

The rule of the thumb? Never wine and dine while starving, Victoria says. “When you’re starving, the senses are fatigued. This prevents the full enjoyment of the experience. It’s best to snack about two hours before the dinner to help stave off the pangs of hunger,” she says.

But even as you snack, don’t overindulge, as this risks ruining your appetite. Wearing a lot of perfume or strong scents to a wine dinner is advised against.

“Wine and food pairing is centred around stimulating our olfactory senses for maximum pleasure,” she says. “Artificial scents such as fragrances mask the aromas of food and wine thus curtailing the enjoyment.’’

For an uninhibited experience, wear mild scents to the dinner. Even better, wear no scents at all.

How do you like to have your wine? Cold, warm or room temperature? Victoria warns that serving wine at the wrong temperature puts a damper on an otherwise remarkable experience.

“On the one hand, very cold wine is tart and serving this with dinner prevents flavours from showing off easily. On the other hand, very warm wine makes the experience flabby and flat,” she adds. What you take before dinner matters too, Victoria says, adding that many diners fall into temptation of having coffee or whisky before wine, unaware of its effects.

“Coffee and whisky have strong flavours that engulf the palate for long. Everything else that you take thereafter is bland and bitter. Tea and coffee should feature after the dessert,’’ she says. So, what constitutes a perfect wine experience?

Start with the light wines so that the palate is not overpowered. Victoria also advises on small portions of every meal served at the dinner.

“You don’t want to be full before all the parts have been served,’’ she says, adding that the portions must be presented aesthetically as “we feast with our eyes as much as our mouths.’’

On the method of preparation, Victoria proposes adventure, diversity and innovativeness.

“Vary the food being paired as well as the cooking methods. Have in your list raw, poached, fried, roasted, baked and steamed foods. This assortment keeps your guests guessing, making the dining experience even more exciting,’’ she observes.

But it’s by experimenting with different flavours that lends magic to the whole affair.

“Do not be afraid of contrasting flavours. Pairing spicy food with mildly sweet wine is sensational. Also, try out a bold red wine with dark chocolate,’’ she says.

Victoria says the quality of water at the dinner table is as critical as the food itself.

“Stay hydrated throughout the night. This keeps the senses alert for a better and longer enjoyment of the dining experience,’’ she says.

“Candelabra, white tablecloth service, proper glasses and lighting significantly influence the mood,’’ she says.

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