Hosting a dinner party is one of those rare occasions when panic can set in on even the most recumbent individual. Consideration can quickly become obsession and may include such symptoms as polishing the cutlery until passing birds are stunned out of the sky by the gleam, ironing napkins until the edges are machete-sharp and constructing a centerpiece to rival Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia Such flourishes may earn you a reputation as a good host, the real knack to fine-tuning your table is a deftly deployed wine roster. You can make a pleasant experience unforgettable by combining a fine wine and beautifully prepared dish, so read on for some dinner party wine pairings made in heaven.
It’s an obvious place to start, but if you’re planning any sort of hearty beef or venison- led entrée, you should serve a bold, full-bodied and boisterous red to grapple with it on the palate. Steak works particularly well with Shiraz; the wine has blackcurrant, peppery expressions that add a welcome blast of flavor to any cut. Remember: red meat at night, Syrah’s a delight.
White meats, served delicately spiced or in casserole form, require white wines with plenty of punch to them; the crispness of a robust chardonnay is the best option to tear through any blandness and counterbalance creamy dishes with some zing. More elaborate flavors like Thai green curry or lamb chops will be slammed into another dimension entirely by the crushed gooseberry attributes specific to New Zealand Sauvignon. It’s also an exquisite option to sit back and enjoy when you’ve had a hard day running around after the kids, and works wonders with fish and chips.
The needs of pudding vary. Anything rich in dark chocolate will yield miracles with a silky Cabernet Sauvignon on side, while milk chocolate really needs port to pop. Sweet berries and lighter, caramel and vanilla offerings should be presented with a sweet, sassy little number—a Riesling should do the trick, or that universally exquisite desert wine, Moscat. If you’ve made it to cheese and biscuits, it’s time to let the Merlot breathe; enjoy it with brash, pungent blues and good conversation, which, by this point, should have been suitably lubricated
Finally, the golden rule: don’t be too prescriptive. Like anything in life, the wonderful thing about wine is, it’s fun to experiment, and everyone has a different palate. If you encourage your guests to drink what they like, when they like, you’ll find your dinner party will be remembered as worth toasting.
Justine MacGregor is a wine lover and mom of three. Her favorite wine is Merlot.
Image by grggrssmr, used under Creative Commons license.