If you’re throwing a dinner party and you really want to impress your guests, then serving some wine is an absolute must. But you can’t just serve any old wine if you’re aiming to make the right impression: you need to serve the right wine!
This is where things can get a little complex though. If you’re not a wine connoisseur then how do you know which the right wine is? How do you know that your guests won’t be secretly laughing behind your back? (Okay that’s unlikely, but you do want to get it right!)
Here are some pointers that can help you to ensure you get it right…
Does it Really Matter?
If you read blogs or columns written by foodies, you’ll often find that they say things like ‘pair this with a fruity Sauvignon Blanc’. Sometimes they’ll even recommend a very specific wine, which sure might go great – but remember that taste is subjective and their opinion might not be the same as your guests!
What’s more, is that it’s very expensive and time consuming to track down specific bottles. You really don’t have to do that and there’s a chance that 99.99% of your guests wouldn’t be able to taste the difference anyway.
That said,the right wine can very nicely complement your food and so it’s worth experimenting or just trying a few different things. What’s also worth doing is to choose meals that will generally go with wine – as the combination of a tangy wine with a strong flavour can be intoxicating when you get it right.
Some Basic Pointers
So what foods go well with wine?
Of course the absolute classic combination is wine and cheese – and there’s a good reason that this idea has stood the test of time (or the taste of time, perhaps?).Fruit also goes very well with wine – and with cheese as well. This creates something of a glorious holy trinity – grapes, cranberry chutney, cheese and wine are a match made in heaven!
Desert can also go very nicely with dessert. Often a dessert wine will be a good choice here but actually I find that chocolate in particular works very well with a more acidic white wine. Rich, dark chocolate and a strong wine just makes you want to collapse into a chair and go to sleep with a big fat smile on your face.
Everyone knows the very basic rules when it comes to your three types of wine and your meals:
- Red meat goes with red wine
- White meat, fish and pasta go with white wine
- Dessert wine is only for dessert
More Advanced Pairing
Want to get a little more technical without shelling out for expensive bottles?
Another rule then is to avoid matching strong wines with delicate foods. You don’t want to put a high alcohol or high tannin wine with something very delicate or it will drown out the flavour of your food. Overwhelm the senses with a taste and smell sensation or lightly complement your delicate dish.
In terms of acidity, this is a great choice for cheese – and that goes for cheesy sauces on your pasta as well. It’s also great with fish. Acidity can cut through a strong taste to create an amazing harmony that is really very pleasing. Likewise, tart wines work well with tart foods like salads with lots of vinegar.
Tannins go well with fat meanwhile. The astringency of tannin means it cuts through the viscosity of the fat. It’s a nice palette cleanser.
Remember that the wine doesn’t always complement the food. Sometimes the food can be used to complement the wine instead.If you have an aged bottle that was given to you by a famous poet just before he died, then this is the star of the show. Your job is not to upstage the star with a flashy, complex meal. Instead,serve something simple and let all the focus be on your wine.
That said though, if you want some simple examples of great pairings that you can lift and try for yourself, here are some particularly delicious options:
- Melon and prosciutto with dry Muscat
- Black truffles with old burgundy
- White truffles with old Barolo
- Plain roasted chicken with cru Beaujolais
- Dark chocolate with Malmsey Madeira
Oh and one more great tip: you can pair other drinks as well! In his book The Four Hour Chef , Tim Ferriss describes pairings of tea with different meals. And while we’re talking about dark chocolate, a really dark chocolate with a strong cup of coffee can be absolutely delicious. Oh and of course you want to put beer with a curry!
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