Having a wine tasting party, or just feel like having some wine? You might not be sure what foods go with the wine you like and vice versa. People have no problem cracking their favorite beer and drinking it with whatever snacks are around. But for some reason we get intimated when choosing a wine with our meal, or we feel guilty drinking wine with something we might not feel is suitable.
It may surprise you that wine goes great with lots of things. OK, let’s rephrase that. It “pairs well” with many food items. We are talking about wine, after all. If you like wine, and you like snacks, healthy or otherwise, try these pairings at your next party or solo adventure.
Can’t talk about wine without talking about cheese. They are the peanut butter and jelly of the highest cuisine. Pretty much any cheese goes with any wine, but there are some exceptions. A general rule is that drier whiter cheeses will go with drier white wines, such as chardonnay. Darker cheeses such as blue and gorgonzola will go with the fuller bodied reds like cabernet sauvignon. The oils in the cheese cut the acidity of the wine and make for a fuller flavor of both. Offer many different types of cheese on a platter. Some of the more popular cheeses with wine are blue, brie, cheddar, asiago, and gouda.
Passing around a platter of shrimp? Serve a bottle of prosecco to go with it. This is a dry, sparkling white wine. Chill it before serving. Prosecco is crisp and light and will accentuate the flavor of the sea. Prosecco will pair well with other seafood snacks, such as crab Rangoons or seafood dip.
Olives and wine are great go-togethers. In fact, olives are often grown in vineyards along with grapes. As with cheese, there are many different varieties and pairing them can be tricky. Generally stronger tasting olives, such as Greek Kalamata’s pair well with richer red wines such as zinfandels and merlots. Castelvetrano olives from Italy, which are a beautiful bright green color, pair well with lighter white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris.
Everyone loves chocolate. It’s the most common thing and the most difficult thing to give up when dieting or sacrificing for religious reasons. But did you know that dark chocolate, as well as being delicious, also offers nutritional value? Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants and has healthy minerals your body can use you while you are enjoying your treat.
Dark chocolate also goes great with wine. Break it into little pieces by itself or added to a bowl of almonds, Brazil nuts or cashews. Pair it with robust red wines such as cabernet sauvignon or pinot noir, or chose your favorite red wine blend, such as Ménage à Trois. The bitterness of the dark chocolate is counterbalanced by the tannins in the red wine. Your mouth will be bursting with fruit flavor.
Any dried fruit or fresh fruit can complement a glass of wine. Figs, mangoes, grapes, chunks of fresh pineapple, strawberries and other assorted berries can be paired successfully with wine. Choose a sweeter champagne or sparkling white wine to go with most fruits. If you want to counter the sweetness, there are red wines that pair well. Beaujolais, Bordeaux, and Chiantis are lighter red wines which bring out the fruit flavors and temper the sweetness of the fruit.
Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers
These spicy, rich snacks contain a number of ingredients that might prove challenging to pair with wine. You can experiment for yourself, but a hearty cabernet sauvignon would go best with this. Cabs bring out the flavor of the meat and tone down the intensity of the pepper. The hot cream cheese wills be extra tasty on a wine soaked palate.
Fresh Baked Bread
How many old French paintings have we seen with a man, a bottle, and a loaf of bread?! Fresh baked crusty Italian or French bread broken off in pieces and buttered go great with any dry wine, white or red. Avoid sweet or bubbly wines as they will over power the aromas and flavors of the bread. If you want to avoid butter, dunk your bread in seasoned olive oil. Bread can be broken into pieces or sliced and served on a large tray alongside your cheeses and olives.
Wine pairing doesn’t have to be intimidating or unenjoyable. Keep in mind you might like a pairing another might not. There are basic guidelines for wine and food pairing. Your goal is to match flavors and intensities of both wine and food. Rich foods tend to pair better with reds, light foods with whites. But there are always exceptions. Also, you also have to factor in your own personal tastes. Snack, taste, and be merry! Enjoy you party or enjoy your snack.
Photo credit: Stefan Johnson