Valentine’s Day isn’t just for +1′s and falling on a Sunday this year makes it prime to celebrate [all weekend] with a gaggle of people you luv. When planning a gathering of six or more details become more involved, who likes what, what goes with what, the details can become cumbersome and it takes all the fun out of party planning. Very much like when pairing food and wine, go with what you like and go generic. Don’t get specific with your wines, trying to please every guest; please yourself first, then your budget. Trust me people will still come to your party. If you’re having anywhere from 6 people plus you need to take into consideration that pairing food and wine isn’t necessarily going to be spot on, unless that is the theme of your party. You’ll have a variety of foods with equally as many personalities in attendance so to simplify things, pick a region and only serve wine from that area, or a style of wine, i.e., Sparkling, or California reds and whites, or Cabernet Sauvignon from around the world. The more honed in you get with your wine the easier it will be for you as the host/hostess this way you can plan the food you’ll be serving around your wine.
First rule of thumb is to eat and drink what you like, no matter what the “rules” are. And quite frankly there are no “rules”, just guidelines, to enhance your pairing experience. However, if you are willing to go on the food and wine ride, then you may want to apply a few principles to ensure a palate pleasing outcome.
First step on the pairing adventure is to loosen the reins on what you know about red wine being paired with beef and white wine being with chicken and fish. Yes, most generic pairings in these categories work but the logic behind it is “weight with weight”; heavy foods with heavy wines; i.e., filet mignon served with Cabernet Sauvignon; and grilled flank steak served with an oaked Chardonnay. Begin to think about the weight of the food when considering your wine.
Armed with, the weight with weight knowledge, you’re ready to take on a whole new adventure with your food and wine. Some quick points of reference when pairing are:
- Salty foods camouflage the sweetness of wine
- Acidic wines are softened with fatty or sweet foods
- Tannins are more pronounced with salty foods
- Sweet foods balance tannic wines
- Heavy proteins such as beef will soften tannins (bitterness) in red wine
- Spicy foods pair best with a low alcohol wine, sweet wines, dry red wines and sparkling wines
Our white wine suggestions for Valentine Entertaining have you sipping outside the typical white wine box; I promise if you give a few of these white wines a whirl you won’t be sorry. They all range in price from $15 up. You can get a very good people-pleasing moderately priced wine with a little research. Spend some time this weekend in your local wine store, browse around, you’ll be amazed at what you’ll discover.
- Albariño, Rias Baxias, Spain - crisp, dry white wine ideal with shellfish
- Grüner Veltliner, Austria – fruity, zesty, acidic easy drinking white wine
- Vouvray, Loire Valley, France – can range in style from dry to sweet. Ideal with cheeses and sweets.
- Gewürztraminer, Germany – also ranges in style from dry to sweet. Another wine that pairs well with cheeses and sweets.
- Viognier, Condrieu, Northern Rhône, France – aromatic and perfume-y a pleasing white wine appeals to most Chardonnay drinkers – across the board general style of wine that will match well with a variety of foods
- Gavi, Italy – fresh middle of the road white wine, not too dry, not too sweet, versatile wine for many food types
- Vermentino, Italy – crisp and minerally white wine, another good choice with seafood or shellfish
Same with Red wine, experiment a little. You don’t have to spend a fortune, decent wines can be had for under $20 even $15. As you spend time this weekend in your favorite wine store, ask the clerk questions, taste what they are sampling, go beyond what is typically in your wine glass and bring some pizzazz to your Valentine gathering. Each of these wines are easy crowd pleasing wines.
- Beaujolais, France – juicy, expressive, fruity, an enjoyable crowd-pleaser. Works well with many foods, ideal for buffet style foods
- Pinot Noir, California – not a value or moderate priced wine but well worth the splurge. You’ll typically find this style to express berry, cherry, chocolate, mocha with depth, texture and elegance. This wine doesn’t necessarily need food. A beautiful sipping wine
- Sangiovese, Italy – Fruity and earthy with tomato, plum, cherry notes, this red wine will match up well with assorted charcuterie and cheeses
- Zinfandel is distinctive in taste taking on red berry fruit blackberry, anise, and pepper. Zinfandel pairs well with assorted charcuterie and cheeses and dark chocolates
- Syrah another distinctive wine with wild black fruits, black pepper spice and warm alcohol another wine that charcuterie, cheeses and dark chocolates will match up with just fine
- Malbec from Argentina is an ideal cost efficient wine bursting with flavor and personality that works with most foods across the board and is impressive to your guests
If you’re going all out or want to go all out, sparkling wines are a lovely aperitif starter to any party. While Champagne can be pricey, alternative sparkling wines such as Franciacorta or Prosecco (Italy), Cava (Spain), Sekt (Germany, Austria) even Sparkling Shiraz (Australia) are good cost conscious alternatives and get the festivities started in an equally pleasurable way.
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