Cathy Gowdie

What sort of wine is good to serve with coffee? It used to be port but that seems to have fallen from favour.

Once it was more or less mandatory for dinner parties to begin with pâté and crackers, progress to beef Wellington and crepes Suzette and end with your next-door neighbour going home with someone other than his wife. This last bit was typically preceded by consumption of after-dinner mints in individual wrappers, a great many menthol cigarettes, a pot of filter coffee and an entire bottle of port.

Port, and the various Australian fortified wines that used to go by that name, still makes an excellent accompaniment to after-dinner coffee.

The conventional wisdom is that vintage port should be consumed on the night it is opened, but there are some excellent Australian ''tawny'' fortifieds that can be kept open for weeks. However, if you're counting on a nostalgic evening of adultery and midnight recriminations, I recommend you stick with tradition and pour the whole bottle.

Basically, because coffee - even really well-made coffee - has some bitterness to it, you will generally want to serve something with some balancing sweetness. Personally, I favour Rutherglen muscat which - since we're on a bit of a '70s trip here - goes nicely with rum-and-raisin ice-cream and Fleetwood Mac. Or you could go for a sweet ''black'' sherry, such as Pedro Ximenez. For something lighter with a little bitterness of its own, you could try an Italian amaro, on ice with a twist of orange peel.

It occurs to me now that I have assumed you're asking about coffee and wine to round off a long lunch or dinner. If you want to know about wine to drink with your breakfast coffee I must point out that the only acceptable breakfast wine is champagne, which frankly doesn't go with coffee. Why are you thinking of wine with breakfast anyway? It's months until the spring racing carnival, and even then a champagne breakfast doesn't really go with coffee - and rarely with any semblance of personal dignity later in the day.

Let's get back to dinner. If you want to end the evening with a bang, so to speak, why not offer your guests an Irish coffee? It's the '70s equivalent of a Red Bull and vodka - a stimulant and a sedative in a single glass, with the added old-school bonus of saturated fat.