Party planning 101: getting the wines right

By
Amelia Ball
Added
05 December, 2016

We asked Melbourne sommelier Leanne Altman of Supernormal for her tips on how to host a party like a seasoned wine pro.

Throwing a party should be fun, but that’s not always how it works out. Choosing wines for an event can prove overwhelming, particularly if you plan to offer a range of dishes and flavours. When picking out wines to suit these occasions, Leanne says it’s all about providing several different options. “I think a couple of really great, well-chosen selections can suit a wide range of tastes. That’s what we encourage here at Supernormal,” she says of their share-style, Asian-influenced menu.

“Sparkling wine is always celebratory and it doesn’t have to be Champagne when we’ve got so many great options here in Australia, although I do have a soft spot for Champagne. Riesling is another one to consider because of its acidity, which is particularly great with canapes, and also because it’s not too high in alcohol. That’s important when it’s all too easy to have that extra glass at Christmas time.”

Leanne also suggests seeking out wines that are fresh, youthful and have a little texture – boxes that are ticked by so many of Australia’s alternative varieties. “You’re looking for wines like greco, vermentino and fiano. They often have that salty character too.” Leanne particularly likes the Chalmers Greco (“just delicious”), Unico Zelo Fiano (“they have a real passion for it”) and the inaugural, just-released Jim Barry Assyrtiko.

“It’s about finding wines that aren’t going to overwhelm,” Leanne says. “Canapes can be quite delicate, so you want wines that are textural rather than exuberant. That’s one of the reasons rosé is proving so popular. It’s got great versatility with a wide range of foods.”

It’s nice to know that Leanne isn’t too hung up on switching glasses for different wines either. “So long as it’s fine and classic, it’s pretty versatile. There are lots of really good glasses out there,” she says. And if you’re looking for something out of the box, Leanne is a huge fan of sake. “It has plenty of ability to do things that wine can’t,” she says. “It has this real umami character and a really great versatility.” Opting for Junmai sake is key, Leanne says, and she prefers those with a little more weight and texture. And while she acknowledges that sake can be daunting for newcomers – “they have lots of terrifying Japanese characters I can’t read” – Leanne recommends talking to sommeliers at venues that serve it or staff at specialty bottle shops that stock it.

Continue your party planning with these bite-size recipes with wines to match, or read these pro tips on entertaining with cheese

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