Comment: Should you match the wine to the people?

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As you plan your wines for Christmas day, John Stimpfig considers how your company should be considered just as much as the food...

Matching wine and people?

Like most oenophiles, I love to plan which wines I am going to serve for a dinner party and the dishes I will pair them with. But what about the vexed question of matching wine and people? I suspect this social conundrum occurs more often than we care to admit.

And possibly no more so than at this festive time of year, when we stress and delight in planning which of our best bottles to fetch up from the cellar.

In my experience, the delight comes from the anticipation of opening such treasures for set-piece feasts. In contrast, the stress usually comes from calibrating what to pour for whom.

I firmly believe that it is important to be unfailingly generous in opening and sharing fine wine

I recall interviewing wine expert Michael Broadbent about this for the Financial Times in 2003. The Broadbentian view was that Christmas lunch was not the time for opening great bottles – particularly if it was an extended family affair with young grandchildren.

I too have bitterly regretted opening especially rare and cherished bottles only to see them swigged without a moment’s introspection or appreciation. However, I don’t blame my guests. The mistake was entirely mine in choosing the wrong wine for the occasion and company.

And yet, I firmly believe that it is important to be unfailingly generous in opening and sharing fine wine.

Most obviously, why spoil a good meal and a great family event with a markedly inferior set of wines? Where’s the fun in that?

There’s also another important reason. We all have to start our wine journey somewhere. So it may well be that one of your guests could experience that magical ‘eureka’ moment, setting them on the path to wine enlightenment.

I should also point out that Michael’s brilliant solution to his Christmas dinner dilemma was to serve something special and impressive that he, his family and guests would all enjoy. In Michael’s case, that meant ‘using up’ magnums of 1992 and 1994 Lafite…

Regrettably, my guests will not be sipping large-format first growth claret with the turkey.

Still. I’m sure I can find something sufficiently delicious and crowd-pleasing for the big day….

John Stimpfig is the content director of Decanter.

Translated by Leo / 孔祥鑫

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