When organising a dinner party, the focus isn’t merely on the food. Purchasing and serving plentiful amounts of wine to help spark conversation is always a wise move. But with wine choices in this context so dependent on the food served, how do you best go about selecting the best wines for your dinner party?
The first thing to say about this subject is that there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer. It’s difficult to satisfy every single palate and which food goes with which wine is naturally a matter of personal taste.
While there are basic rules to food and wine pairing, it can also be beneficial to sign up to a wine club. They were once perhaps considered a bit elitist, but today the convenience of the Internet has ensured that they are well within most people’s price range. Online wine clubs enable members to sign up via the Internet, have the latest wines sent through the post, and even provide access to wines that may not be available in the local wine store. The variety offered, in terms of both geographical origin and types of wine available, is simply staggering. This makes joining one a great route to go down when looking for great dinner party choices.
But once you’ve joined your wine club, you still have to decide what bottles to order. A huge amount of effort and material exists attempting to match every conceivable dish under the sun to an appropriate wine selection, and you can go into immense detail if you wish. Having a decent knowledge of what pairings work can make the experience even more gratifying.
Like food, wine is categorised into different flavours and the trick to a successful pairing is to understand the components that complement each other. Champagne and sparkling wines, both cocktail party staples, are versatile enough but truly shine when matched with salty foods. Full-bodied cabernets, however, are excellent choices for entrees, such as prime cuts of steak, since the wines flavour beautifully balances out the equally heavy and protein-rich meat. If you’re serving salad with an acidic dressing or vinaigrette, Chardonnay is your safest bet.
Keep in mind that pairing food and wine should result in a harmony of flavours. And more often than not, these simple rules follow a logical pattern. You wouldn’t want to pair a wine high in alcohol and tannin with spicy foods; a sweeter variety would tame the intense heat of the dish. When it comes to desserts, it’s important to go with wines that are just as sweet or even sweeter to highlight the food’s sugariness. Watch out for the dry red wine and chocolate pairing though; despite its universal appeal, opt for a sweeter red to bring out the chocolate’s sweetness.
Another easy rule of thumb to remember is that food and wine from the same region naturally complement each other (for instance, an Italian-themed dinner party with Italian wines). And when in doubt, consider the textures: light white wines are perfect for delicate dishes and heavier reds with richer flavours (think: strong cheeses and red meats).
Pairing food and wine doesn’t necessarily have to be daunting and while there are some basic rules to what works and what doesn’t, at the end of the day, it’s all about finding a combination that suits your palate to enjoy with the company of friends.