20 Rules for Food & Wine Pairing when Entertaining

Party season is just around the corner, so we have put together some tips for pairing food and wine when entertaining your guests. From starters and nibbles, through to mains and dessert, follow these simple steps to create memorable food and wine combinations.

Drinks with nibbles / aperitif

1. Try a fine Prosecco or Cava as a great value alternative to Champagne (did you know that Champagne is more of a food wine)?
2. Go for a crisp and lightly fruity white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc, unoaked Chardonnay or Picpoul de Pinet. Bright, crisp wines drink well on their own and excite the palate for food to come.
3. Starter red wines should be softer in character, with lighter tannins to give a sense of fruity enjoyment without puckering your mouth. Try an Italian or Chilean Merlot or Beaujolais Villages.

Hors d’ouvres

4. A rich Pinot Gris from Alsace or the Italian Chianti pairs beautifully with paté. The richness, spiciness and acidity complements the creaminess and fat of the paté.
5. Chablis or Sancerre are classic matches for seafood, or try Domaine de Chevilly Quincy for a headturning value alternative.

Main course

6. Meaty fish and salmon can be paired with delicate reds, but stick with white wine for lighter textured fish. The texture and oiliness of the salmon works well with the light red fruit and rounded notes of Beaujolais or Pinot Noir.
7. Pair Chardonnay with chicken, a classic combination, especially with creamy or mushroom sauces. The richness and acidity of a Chilean, American or French Chardonnay brings out the flavours in chicken breast in particular.
8. Pinot Noir is delicious with lamb and turkey. The delicate red fruit aromas complement the meat, whilst the natural acidity aids digestion (remember pork and apple?)
9. Try a Rhône blend (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) with duck. The rich and spicy fruit flavours make this a special combination.
10. Italian red wines are perfect with rich meat dishes.
11. Decant your red wines (and even your whites if you wish). They taste so much better with food after standing for an hour. Time in the decanter allows the wine to settle and mellow.


12. Did you know that white cheeses pair best with crisp high acidity white wines?
13. Blue cheeses pair well with Port or Madeira (which is also delicious with nutty cheeses).
14. For a delicious alternative, try a dry, rich Oloroso sherry whose complex and evolving flavours seem to match a variety of cheeses.


15. Many people claim not to like dessert wines, but secretly love them!
16. As the colour of the dessert gets darker, the wine should get darker.
17. With fruity, spicy desserts such as Christmas pudding pair white wines (Sauternes, late harvest Gewürtztraminer) and pink champagne. The spiciness of the wine brings out the flavour of the fruit.
18. With Crème Anglaise and other custardy desserts pair aromatic white wines (such as lateharvest Riesling), sparkling wines like demi-sec champagne and Italian sparklers.
19. With chocolate and caramel desserts pair red wine (like late-harvest Pinot Noir, Banyuls, Grenache, Australian Shiraz), Port (with chocolate), and Grappa.
20. For pre-dinner drinks, cater for about 1/3 to 1/2 bottle per person, and for a dinner party, cater for from 1/2 to 3/4 bottle per person – you know your guests best!
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