Catering for a crowd: why bigger is always better
Author: Joe Fattorini
Entertaining a crowd with wine? Then try to serve the smallest number of bottles, in the largest bottles you can find, containing the most approachable wine you can think of.
Because there’s no better way of showing your friends and family what your party is all about: sharing and being together. Show them, don’t tell them, by pulling the cork on a magnum (three or four of you); or a jeroboam or rehoboam (from half a dozen chums up to a solid family Christmas); or methuselah or salmanazar (for a work Christmas do, a bijou wedding or a very memorable barbecue).
Two things happen when you reveal a big bottle. The first is a queue forms, with people bearing phones for a selfie holding the beast. You’ll soon find you have an authoritative record of the day, evening or night via Instagram.
The next is that you’ll find everyone loves the wine. It’s a useful heuristic (or mental shortcut) to know that on the whole, winemakers don’t put bad wine in good bottles. But there’s something more profound going on in your guests’ heads. The bigger the bottle, the more they’re predisposed to like what’s in it. At a recent dinner we served a £70 wine, a £50 wine and Berry Bros & Rudd Extra Ordinary Claret in a jeroboam – the equivalent of £16 a bottle. What was the hands-down, slam-dunk, knock-it-for-six winner? Berry Bros & Rudd Extra Ordinary Claret (accompanied by a lengthy queue for selfies).
And what should your large bottle contain? Extra Ordinary Claret gives you an idea. People used to talk about “beverage wines”: wines that are delicious, rather than distinctive, more supple than slick. We all have different palates, and the goal at any gathering is to share in common communion. In terms of music, it’s Handel’s Messiah, not Messiaen; Michael McIntyre, not Jerry Sadowitz. The warm glow of the many will feel better than the rousing applause of the few.
So go and find a lovely Mâcon in a double magnum, or a jeroboam of Ribera del Duero, or a methuselah of luncheon Claret. Get your corkscrew out… and then wait 10 minutes before serving, while everyone takes their selfies.