Comedienne, Helen Lederer talks about summer parties and drinking in the sunshine.

Last week, we were incredibly excited to be chatting to acclaimed actress and comedienne Helen Lederer. Yes that's right it's wonderfully dippy Catriona from Absolutely Fabulous, but she's not just hilarious - she's so much more. With her Level 2 WSET exams in wine and spirit tasting she has gone on to become an expert in all things wine related. With summer coming up Helen gives us her tips for socialising, sourcing her current wine recommendations and clues on how not to entertain this season!

So Helen, how have your experiences as a comic actress helped your skills as a hostess?

Well I think possibly the extrovert gene I probably inherited - that helps! I don’t need to sit in silence that often! I think you’ve got to enjoy other people and acting is about communicating as well so it’s just the joy of being in a group of other like minded people… Wanting to communicate and enjoy, share nice things, good food, good wine - that’s what life is about!
 
What tips would you give people who are not so confident at entertaining?

Well there’s nothing wrong with not being confident, you’re probably one of those interesting quiet people that people want to get to know further. In fact quiet people are always the ones that I spend more time with because you want to tease them out. I’d say you must get a good red wine open! If you haven’t got the conversation then you’ve got the wine - I would rather the wine any day…
 
Wine can be such a tricky subject to learn about - what is the best way to go about it? Online or off?

Well I think there’s any way There are many courses I did the WSET – (Wine and Spirit Education Trust Exam) which is great fun. Sometimes it’s fun to be in a class with other people, to taste live I think is a very social hobby. There are books, there’s DVDs, I’ve got everything actually. I’ve got DVD’S that match wine with food! It’s just all out there.
 
Any disastrous anecdotes you could share with us?
 
Oh where to start! I think burning food is not helpful. Which I do tend to do when people come round I tend to talk and then I forget food is in the oven so I need someone else to take the food out and if they forget, that’s why I have a heavy reliance on wine in my house and sometimes the food comes second - so not to burn the food!
 
What must we remember not to do when hosting?

Not provide wine, food and music! Those are three imperatives for a good night; music, good lighting, candlelight, lots and lots of wine - so you don’t have to look around. A good pourer; either yourself or your partner (you’ve got have a good generous pourer) and maybe some crisps!

What are your top tips for entertaining over the summer?

My top tips for entertaining are: Pray for sun first of all! And should you the get sun, then the key preparation is go to your local supermarket and buy a Côtes du Rhône red wine because you know it’s from a beautiful region in France and you know that those juicy grape will be just perfect! Try not to drink it all… Get the music on, get the barby on, get the football on (for the men!) and it just takes care of itself after that.
 
Buying wine online - what is the most important thing to remember?

A useful tip for buying wine online is to decide what you are looking for, what kind of region so that narrows it down, otherwise you get spoilt for choice. Because I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to taste all these varieties I go ‘right I want that region’ and you know what you’re going to get - then you can just have fun with variations of it.

2 April 2012