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Wine and cheese tastings should be something special

By Staff
Aug. 22, 2001
A friend was talking about a fund raiser being planned by an organization to which she belongs. It would start with the usual wine and cheese tasting. When I asked what wines and what cheese would be served she didn't know. Someone else was in charge of that particular function. That I could understand.
Now I have nothing against wine and cheese tastings. I've been to a hundred of them. What I don't understand is, in most cases, the selection of wines that are being poured and the cheese that has been selected to be its companion.
Nine out of ten, no make that 49 out of 50, wine tastings go for the cheap. The chairman thinks he or she can buy junk wines and get away with it because either those attending don't know the difference or they don't care. The wines are selected based on their price, not on their quality. As a result some of the least palatable wines I have ever tasted were those poured at so-called wine and cheese parties.
I shall never understand how you can gather people from who you're going to ask donations of $100, $200 or $500 to some worthy cause and then set the standard of the evening by pouring $6 a bottle wines.
Likewise, the cheese is virtually always cut in cubes of three types, yellow cheese, some kind of white cheese and another with jalapeno (an enemy of wine), accompanied by a small container of toothpicks.
Remember the old saying, "Life is too short to drink bad wine?" To paraphrase it, "Charity is too important to serve bad wine." The difference between a $6 chardonnay from Chile and a $10 Lindeman's from Australia is night and day. If you're going to serve white zinfandel, at least let it be one of the good ones such as Beringer. Don't serve the jug wines, the Emerald Drys and others that come in great big bottles with little tiny prices. California red wines that carry a label saying "Burgundy" are not burgundies at all. True burgundy is only made in the burgundy district of France and you could buy a case or more of that California version for the price of one bottle of the real thing.
Recommended wines that give quality in the $10-$12 class include the Meridian wines from California, Macon Village wines from France, Columbia Crest of the State of Washington, an Australian sparkling wine called Seaview (under $10 and excellent) as well as any of the regular, not premium, Australian Rosemounts or Lindeman's, Geyser Peak of California, St. Supery from Napa Valley, particularly their sauvignon blanc, Walnut Crest from Chile, Turning Leaf by Gallo, and there are many others.
As for the cheese why not use imagination when preparing canapes? Most clubs or causes have plenty of manpower, or should we say womanpower. Just for fun put out a tray of blue cheese on crackers, another of brie or camembert with a different type cracker, another with cheddar that doesn't come with a red rind on it, cut into slices that will fit on the little square slices of different types of Pepperidge Farm bread such as pumpernickel.
The wines and cheese you serve at such an event will tell those who attend how important the evening is to you and your friends. The same is true of wedding receptions, theater openings and other gatherings. It really doesn't cost that much more to go first class but it sure makes the trip a lot more fun.
In the past we've always had our wine tastings on Thursday nights but because our guest speaker, Reid Rapport, who for seven years was the wine purchaser for the Walt Disney Company and is a well known consultant in the field, was only going to be in Mississippi for two nights, we switched this August tasting to tonight, Wednesday. We've had phone calls which indicated there was some confusion. So if you've made a reservation we'll see you tonight at Northwood Country Club for a tasting of The Wines of Spain, nine in all. We start at 6:30 p.m. as usual.
I cheated and drank in advance several of the wines that will be tasted tonight. They were impressive, to say the least, rich, packed with flavor and very reasonably priced. The young ones, the 1998s and 1999s, still have some of their tannins, as you would expect, but, with a little breathing, the tannin faded into the background and the wines were delicious. You'll see.

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