Every year, my wife has a birthday party. Not my favourite evening of the year. For me, to paraphrase Jean-Paul Sartre very loosely: “Hell is a crowded room with lots of people.”
My job is to organise and pour the wines, and buying always poses the same question: What is good enough to (A) make the guests feel well treated and (B) be pleasant to drink if there’s any left over, but also (C) reasonably priced and (D) sold by someone who will also deliver rented wine glasses?
Questions A through C (and many others) are addressed in Helen McGinn’s The Knackered Mother’s Wine Club (Macmillan, £12.99). The book, arising from Ms McGinn’s blog, gives a lot of the wine basics (production techniques, grape varieties etc.) in plain, chatty style without making you feel you’re taking a wine course.
What I like best about it, however, is that it addresses questions ordinary wine books do not address. Such as: what wines should you serve at a book club? And: what should you serve to the parents whose children have come over for your child’s birthday party? Call it a wine book if you will. It’s also a book about contemporary parenthood. I heartily recommend it.
Ms McGinn proposes easy-going wines from the New World for parties. Easy-going – definitely. New World? Not necessarily. Our supplies usually come from Oddbins or Majestic, which both hire out glasses, and they’re usually European. This year it was Majestic, which had an offer on two exactly suitable low-priced wines.
One: Mont St Jean 2011, Corbières, a medium-weight specimen with very accommodating tannins. Two: Cuvée de Richard Blanc 2012, Comté Tolosan; very quaffable citrus flavours, 11.5 per cent alcohol. Snap up both at £4.99.
My final bottle is the one I pulled out of the freezer (I don’t drink at parties) when everyone had left. Russian Standard is the best-value vodka in the UK. Clean, sweet flavour. Widely
available at £15 to £18. I sipped a
Martini slowly while washing those glasses. Of course, it tastes far better in company. Just not too much company.