Which Wine to Serve with Dinner?

Which Wine to Serve with Dinner?

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Image: Gunel Najafzade-Unsplash

Most people love to throw dinner parties for their friends and family. But, they may avoid serving wine because they do not know exactly what to serve. Do you serve red or white with fish? Will Merlot be okay if you are serving a Mexican dish? It can be confusing trying to remember which wines go with which food. This handy guide gives you the basic tips to help you decide which wine to serve with your next dinner. Do not stress over it, there are some basic wine rules you can follow.  

The number one rule of thumb when choosing wine is “red wine with red meat, white wine with white meat.” This is not always true, but it generally works quite well when you are unsure. One exception is chicken. The meat is white, but a nice fruity red wine goes well with it. The same can be said for tuna or salmon, so you do not have to always follow the rule of not serving red wine with fish. The second rule is the rule of complements. It is okay to match sweet seafood such as lobster with a sweet white wine. The next rule is the opposites attract. While you usually want to match like flavours, sometimes a contrast, such as a White Bordeaux with bluefish can be wonderful. 

Outside of the basic rules, there are certain things you can look for and certain things you can avoid depending on what you are serving. Here are some hints as to what to serve with particular types of food.

Salads and Appetisers

You should avoid serving wine during your salad, as vinegar and wine do not mix well. But, if you are having an appetiser, you need to consider the ingredients in the appetiser to help you choose your wine. If you are having a cheese tray, the type of cheese will help you determine the wine. For example, cheddar is best with dry reds, Merlots, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Pinot Noir goes best with Swiss. Camembert and brie are great with a Chardonnay. The cheese we tend to think of as Italian such as parmigiano, romano and reggiano go well with Italian dry red wines like Chianti and Barlo. If you are serving something with a fried appetiser, consider serving a crisp, fruity white or red wine to help cut the oily flavour.

Spicy Foods

If you are planning on service something spicy like Thai or Indian food, a sparkling wine works best. Avoid wines with tannins and look for something fruity. And, make sure the wine is well chilled. Cold wine goes well with spicy foods.

Beef, Steak and Lamb

Do you remember the “red wine with red meat” rule? That one is great to use when serving beef, steak, and lamb. Choose a dry red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon or burgundy like Pinot Noir. You can also consider serving an Italian red such as Barolo or Chianti.

Poultry, Pork and Veal

For the most part, you want to follow the “white meat, white wine” rule with these. White chardonnays and Pinot Blancs are great. If you want to serve red with chicken, remember to choose a wine that is fruity like a Merlot or Zinfandel.

Turkey 

Think back to Thanksgiving. Do you remember how well your cranberry sauce went with the turkey? The same rule applies here. For turkey, since it has both white and dark meat, you want something fruity and tarts such as a Beaujolais for red or a Riesling for white.

Fish and Seafood

To be safe, stick with a dry, crisp white wine. Sauvignon Blanc goes well with white fish while Sancerre and Muscadet go well with oysters. If you want to be different, try a fruity red wine (without tannins). But, use caution when serving red, especially if you are serving white, delicate fish. Cabernets with tannins combined with fish can leave a metallic taste in your mouth. 

Dessert

The best thing to serve with a delicious dessert is a dessert wine. In fact, you can skip the dessert part and just serve a dessert wine to your guests. These are sweet wines often sold in smaller bottles as you don’t drink as much dessert wine as you do regular wine. Wines such as Sauternes, Beerenauslese, Bermet and Cammandaria will make a great end to any evening.

The most important rule about what wine to serve is to avoid being snobby about wine. There are no right answers, only basic rules to go by and even those, as you have seen, can be changed. Do not be afraid to experiment with different tastes. Chances are if you do not act like there is anything wrong with the wine you are serving, your guests will not either.

Wine and Cheese

Wine and cheese parties are positively delicious! If there is one thing we all love I think we can all agree it would be food. In many cultures around the world, food is a very important aspect of life with special occasions and food intertwined with each other. Food is a social and fundamental part of society. Face it, going to dinner with a friend is much more fun than eating dinner alone. Perhaps that is why dinner parties are such a genius idea, the notion of a group of people getting together to share a meal as well as sharing a glass of wine with your friends or family.

If there is one thing we all love I think we can all agree it would be food. In many cultures around the world, food is a very important aspect of life with special occasions and food intertwined with each other. Food is a social and fundamental part of society. Face it, going to dinner with a friend is much more fun than eating dinner alone. Perhaps that is why dinner parties are such a genius idea, the notion of a group of people getting together to share a meal as well as stimulating conversation while sipping a glorious wine is nothing short of sublime. Putting together such a gathering of companions does not need to be a daunting task, which often seems to be one of the main reasons many people do not host as many soirees as they would like. A much more simple wine and cheese party can give the same jovial atmosphere as a dinner party with less work, less expense and above all less stress on the host or hostess.

Not much is required for having a wine and cheese party compared to holding a dinner party. Decor can be relatively simple and often works best as such. Fancy plates and glasses are not obligatory either. While it is important to make sure that you have proper wine glasses, do not go out and buy glasses just for the occasion. As stated in an earlier article, Essential Wine Accessories, red wines tend to be served in a larger bowl style glass than whites because of their bigger bouquets, but many wine glass companies nowadays manufacture a more universal wine glass which is suitable for both reds and whites. Do not feel obliged to buy red wine glasses if you only drink white and vice versa because if you would only get used out of them occasionally when you had an event like a wine and cheese party it is not worth the expense.

Plates are much the same as wine glasses. If you do not plan on throwing many events it is not worth the expense of going out and purchasing small serving or even mingling plates. Mingling plates are special plates that have a hole in one side to side in a wine glass so that while a person is eating and drinking they do not have to worry about balancing their glass or setting it down somewhere. Instead, you can opt for a much less expensive yet still fashionable idea of cocktail napkins. Go down to your local party supply store and pick up a variety of small cocktail napkins in different colours and patterns. Using a variety of cocktail napkins not only is less expensive but also means you can better colour or theme coordinate if you are having a themed wine and cheese party.

The most important part of a wine and cheese night is of course the wine and cheese! It is important to pair the two as best as possible, even if neither you nor your guests are sommeliers. Wine and cheese from the same regions tend to go very well together, but this does not mean you have to serve a French wine with a French cheese. Some of the most basic and most popular pairings for wine and cheese are:

Swiss with Gewurztraminer

Cream Cheese with White Zinfandel

Camembert with Chenin Blanc or Cabernet

Brie with Merlot, Champagne or a Sweet Sherry

Sharp Cheddar with Cabernet, Sauvignon Blanc or Rioja

Muenster with Beaujolais or Zinfandel

Roquefort with Tawny Port

So as you can see having a wine and cheese party is very simple, inexpensive and just as enjoyable as a full-on dinner party! Do not stress if you do not have the right sort of glasses or plates, the wine and cheese party is meant to be a stress-free social event with friends and loved ones.