Whether you are known as a bit of a wine buff or are a complete beginner to the dinner party scene, choosing the right wines for your soiree deserves some consideration. Here’re our top tips for making sure you choose the best wines for your dinner party.
Red or White
When hosting a dinner party, it is important to remember that the flavours of the food you serve will impact how the wine tastes, and vice versa.
Traditionally we pair white wines with fish, but there is more to consider than just the type of meat you are serving. Think about how your dish is flavoured as well. A Sauvignon Blanc pairs beautifully tart dressing and sauces whereas the heavier notes of a Pinot Grigio complement lighter dishes. For richer-tasting fish dishes, like salmon or those served in a cream sauce, there really is no other choice but a nice Chardonnay.
As for the reds, Pinot Noir will be at its best alongside earthy dishes, like vegetables or pizza. If you are not sure of how to pair a red with a dish, think logically. A heavy Italian red was literally made to accompany pasta dishes and gnocchi.
The problem with serving good wine to your friends is that few of them are going to notice when it is good and will happily knock it back. When the wine contrasts poorly with the meal or the setting, however, even we amateurs see that it falls short. We then tend to brand it as a ‘bad wine’ when in reality it is just poorly suited to the dish.
To avoid this, and keep your guests happy, consider the weight of the vintages you are serving when you buy your wines. Whether you choose them in person or buy them from an online liquor store, it is important to consider how the body of the wine will compare with the flavours of the food. A rich, full-bodied wine is the perfect complement to a heavy, red sauce pasta dish but would taste odd alongside a light salad or delicate herb flavours.
Don’t be afraid to serve different wines with different courses, in fact, it’s the right way to do it. The average dinner party host might be out of the habit of food pairing these days, but it is a good one to get into. It will enhance the flavours of your meal and ensure everything works perfectly together.
For a starter, which tends to be light, you want a lighter wine. Fresh, white vintages are always a good choice here and will pair beautifully with fish or delicate salads. If you are serving a pasta dish to start, stick to a Chardonnay for a creamy sauce or a Pinot Noir if the pasta is in a herby, red sauce.
For the main, we traditionally move onto a heavier red. This prevents guests from drinking too much and allows them to savour the flavours. Of course, if it is a hot summer night and you are serving a lighter main, then stick to cool, refreshing white wines.
Dessert wine is a must and something that it is always best to research in advance. Muscat wines are the perfect complement to fruits whilst ports pair beautifully with rich desserts. There are also a variety of vintages that can be served as desserts in their own right, such as the German Ausele. Consider what is most likely to appeal to your guests and opt for that option, after all, the perfect wine for your dinner party is the one you and your guests will keep coming back to.