The best pairings for wine are good company and conversation.
I love wine. But I really love sitting back at my dinner table with beautiful people enjoying a glass (or two) of my favorite grape concoction while connecting our hearts. To me, this little slice of enjoyment is not so I can forget, but just adds to my experience of being present with those I love.
(Check out Formational Friendship – a fun look at how friends can bring you closer to God.)
I’m not going to pretend like I’m some sommelier, though I do smell those notes and swish & gargle my first sip. I don’t have extensive knowledge of a library of wines. But I do love to host people at my table, and I love to pair foods or appetizers with le grapes. And this has opened my ability to communicate and be hospitable as well as grow my vino knowledge.
(If you’re introverted like me, HERE are a few ideas for hosting people at your table.)
I’m also not going to pretend that wine is necessary for connection or for fun.
But gosh it sure adds to it.
In this little article, I’ll be giving you a few fun ideas for enjoying MY favorite beverage so you have an excuse to get your friends together to sip and gargle and connect at your own tasting party, too.
Wine Tasting Party Ideas, YO. This is a fun way to try lots of wines and broaden your ability to taste different wines. You can organize your wine by region, by grape, by your favorites, etc. The options are limitless!!
What You Need: Tapas, appetizers, charcuterie (scroll down for a charcuterie how-to), full-blown meal if you’re feeling extra, tasting glasses with stems, white napkins, paper and pen for each guest, bowl or bucket for pouring/spitting out wine, decanters for full-bodied wines
What to do: I would suggest a selection of 4-5 wines; reds OR whites so you can taste the various differences between specific grapes. A short explanation by the host, not extensive knowledge, of the four basic steps of wine tasting will help guests feel comfortable and have an understanding of what they’re supposed to do:
LOOK – check wine against white napkin for color & clarity (shows wine age and alcohol content)
SWIRL – aerates wine and releases aroma
SMELL – put nose all the way in that glass and breathe deep (here’s a fun list of those “notes” you might smell or taste)
TASTE – small drink, swish all around mouth and tongue, suck air through teeth…whatta ya taste?
Have guests write down what they see, smell & taste, guess the vintage or alcohol content, etc. Compare notes and share favorites! THIS IS SO MUCH FUN!
And don’t forget to spit or pour out what you don’t want or like. Here at Clearpath.Life, we DO NOT promote headaches in the morning.
FOODS THAT PAIR WITH TYPES OF WINE + MY FAVE WINE FROM EACH CATEGORY:
Bold Reds (Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petite Sirah, etc.): Smoked, barbequed meats; rich meats like beef, venison, sausage, cured meats
My splurgey favorite Cab: 2014 Checkerboard King’s Row Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
My cheap wine of choice: Trader Joe’s Charles Shaw Blend Cabernet Sauvignon, California (does not taste like a cab, more like an easy-drinking medium red, but it’s TWO BUCKS…can’t purch online)
My go-to Malbec: 2015 Finca Decero Remolinos Vineyard Malbec, Argentina
Honorable Mention: 2016 Molly Dooker Blue Eyed Boy Shiraz, Australia
Medium Reds (Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Zinfandel, Merlot, etc.): Roasted veggies, pizza, Italian cuisine, pork, duck, lamb & cured meats
My favorite Chianti Classico (Sangiovese): 2014 Castello Di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva; Tuscany, Italy
Light Reds (Pinot Noir, Gamay): cheese, bread, creamy soups and pastas, French cuisine, chicken, duck, pork, turkey
My favorite Pinot: 2013 La Crema Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, Oregon
Rosé: Richly flavored foods like Indian, Mediterranean, spicy foods, poultry, seafood
My favorite Rosé: 2017 Miraval Cotes de Provence Rosé Provence, France
Bold Whites (Chardonnay, Chablis, oak barrel-aged wines): creamy soups and pastas, French dishes, Seafood, poultry
My favorite bold white: 2014 Jean Marc Brocard Chablis Grand Cru, Les Clos, Burgundy
Sweet Whites (Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Moscato, etc.): spicy Indian, Thai & Chinese cuisine, oily rich fish
*Not a big fan of sweet wines, so I’ve got nothing! Tell me your favorite in the comments!
Dry Whites (Sauvignon Blanc, etc.): Veggies, chicken & fishy fish
My favorite Sauv: 2016 Matua Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
Dessert (Port, sherry, muscat, etc.): Cookies, chocolate, fruit, soft cheeses
Favorite dessert wine: 2009 Donnafugata Ben Rye Passito Di Pantelleria, Italy
Sparkling (Champagne, Prosecco, etc.): Fries, popcorn, sushi, oysters, seafood and salty foods
*Same as sweet wines…don’t have anything for ya! Tell me your favorite in the comments!
HOW TO MAKE A LEGIT CHARCUTERIE:
You know, charcuterie (shar-koo-der-ee), the pretty board with all of the meats and cheeses and stuff on it that you get to eat while you drink your wine. Charcuterie is a great way to please a wide range of palates and get creative in your presentation, not to mention affordable for feeding a crowd. Here are a few basic elements of a charcuterie board:
Variety of meats and cheeses: Mild, medium, bold flavors of meat, like soppresata, prosciutto, pancetta & salami, and various textured cheeses. I like to have a hard cheese, like an aged cheddar, something in between, like a gruyere, and something softer, like a brie. You can range in “sharpness” of cheese too…I’m just not crazy about really stinky cheeses.
Seasonal fruit: Adds sweet to the salty and makes it pretty.
Jams or preserves: Adds flavor and sweetness to balance out the salty. Fig preserves are great!
Crackers and bread: Something crunchy and buttery to layer all of this goodness on top of.
Something briny: pickled veggies pair well with meat and cheese.
Extras: Spreads like stone ground mustard, olive tapenade, pate, etc., as well as nuts or sweets like chocolate.
NOTE: This article is all about how to throw a wine-tasting party, but don’t forget the most important element of gathering with those close to you: making space and connection. Give time for formative conversations to blossom and maybe even consider having games or a series of questions that you ask through the night that weave hearts together amongst your group. Throwing a party is just that…throwing a party, if you don’t provide your guests with a space to be authentic and find community.
Featured Photo by Remo Vilkko
In-Article Photo by Marc Babin