If you are charged with planning an office party, some of the most important decisions that you will make involve choosing food and libations. You may be intimidated by the prospect of matching foods with wine or liquor. However, there is no need to hire a professional sommelier to ensure that the choices you make are good ones.
Instead, stick with a few tried and true strategies for pairing food with wine. First, select the menu. Then, when you set out to buy white wine or red wine or even liquor, use your menu as a guide to determine your choices. Following this simple strategy will significantly increase the odds that the overall spread will be pleasing to the largest possible number of people.
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Pairing Food With Wine
When pairing food with wine, there are four elements to consider: The preparation of the dish will play a large role in determining these four elements. Body or weight refers to the substance of the dish – is it a full-bodied steak or a delicate whitefish dish? Is the flavour or intensity of the dish weak, moderate or strong? Is the aroma of the dish earthy, fruity, grassy or herbal? Finally, is the prevalent taste of the dish sweet, spicy, acidic, sour or bitter?
The best pairings of food and wine will complement and contrast each of these four elements. For example, full-bodied dishes with strong flavouring such as steaks require full-bodied wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon that can hold their own. By contrast, the acidity of Riesling wines matches well with spicy Thai dishes, while their neutrality will not fight with the savoury flavours of the food. More adventurous palates may enjoy Gewurztraminer wines with spicy dishes.
Pinot Grigio from Italy
Pinot Grigio has developed an undeserved bad reputation that stems from the many poor quality wines on offer. However, good Pinot Grigio has a lively combination of ripe fruit notes and a delightful earthy ambiance. Look for wines made from grapes grown in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Trentino-Alto Adige regions. Good labels for Pinot Grigio include Alois Lageder, Tiefenbrunner and Folonari. Like most whites, Pinot Grigio wines should be drunk young.
Saint-Véran or Mâcon from France
For white wines, it’s hard to go wrong with a Chardonnay. Each of these two Burgundies is made from those grapes. Saint-Véran is somewhat hard to find, and may be a stretch for the budget, but the hunt is worthwhile. Some Saint-Véran wines have the familiar oiliness of traditional Chardonnays, while others have a crisp, tart taste that resembles that of Granny Smith apples. Verget, Joseph Drouhin and Domaine des Maillettes (Guy Saumaize) are prominent brands of Saint-Véran wines. Mâcon is less complex, less expensive and much easier to find on the shelves, but go just as well with poultry dishes. Labouré-Roi, Cave de Lugny and Louis Jadot are the names to look for.
Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand
If you are seeking a reasonably-priced wine that is of consistently good quality, a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand makes an excellent choice. These wines have notes of kiwi, lime and even hints of green pepper and are best drunk young. Giesen, Chimney Creek, Kim Crawford, Stoneleigh and Monkey Bay are the names to seek out for these wines, which are an excellent match with tossed green salads.
Petite Sirah from California (United States)
This American wine should not be confused with Syrah, which is better known. Petite Sirah (also called Petite Syrah) is made from entirely different grapes that are almost black, with earthy, spicy undertones. If you serve a Petite Sirah, open it well in advance of your actual meal time to allow the wine to air out properly. Names to look for include Bogle, Concannon and Guenoc.
Maddison Wilhelm is a veteran caterer. She enjoys blogging about the basics of putting together a great party for any occasion.