I may bang on until I am blue in the face about food matching, but the Anglo-Saxon way is not to think about wine as something to match with food. We can fight against it by suggesting foods, but let’s be pragmatic. What is the best way to drink wine if you are not going to eat much more than a packet of crisps?
And yet I have a deep commitment NOT to think about wine as a beer or soft drink or cocktail.
So how do you drink wine in this way? Even if wine is not drunk to have with food, it has its function here: it is a way for people to slow down and relax and unwind and be themselves a little from the tightly-wound up complex compromises we have to make to our personality just to get along with such a broad range of people every moment of the day. And the wine makes up a part of the jigsaw of conversation. Whether it is a mother who likes a glass of wine after putting the kids to bed and fed up with only the conversation of three-year-olds all day, or two girlfriends meeting up after work to bitch about their boss, who was only put there because his parents are friends with the owner, and so on, one bottle of wine is drunk after another.
So this is my proposal, in particular, with white wine (and it mostly is white wine): start with something enlivening and move towards the less crisp. Is it any wonder Pinot Grigio is so popular? This is the part of the night where you are catching up with friends and the day past. Most Pinot Grigio are enlivening enough to awaken the palate. If you really want “to wake up” then try a Pinot Grigio from the Alto Adige in Italy – it is like getting out of the bad tour bus of your life and stepping out onto a sharp breath of Alpine air.
Other good alternatives are a Sancerre or an Albarino.
Then move on to something slightly heavier. This could mean it has a sheen of oak, which traditionally is Chardonnay, but most people are aware Gruner Veltliner is also in the same food family as Chardonnay and see it as in-between Riesling and Chardonnay. Alternatives could have a bit more flesh, and less acidity, such as a Vouvray Sec, a waxy SA Chenin, or a voluptuous Vermentino from Provence, Tuscany or Sardinia.
If you are not onto reds already, then I would move to slightly sweeter fruit in the white wine. Not sweet, but sweeter fruit: underneath the fruit is a freshness. This could be an Alsace Riesling or Gewurtztraminer. Other wines I have found good to take the “acidity off the night” is a serious Soave like Pieropan’s La Rocca, with an almost parmasen character, or an oaked Bordeaux white.
Of course, if any of these are your favourites then you may want to stay on the one bottle all night.
Think about food, yes, definitely, please. But if this is your night then this sort of sequencing is the best way to get the most out of this way of drinking wine and let the night roll on with its own rhythm.