Nina’s Tips & Techniques: Pairing Wine with Food

I’m hosting a holiday party and want to serve wine that pairs well with the food, but also offers people choices… do I need to buy a ton of different wines or can I please a crowd with one thing?

No, you absolutely do not have to provide wine for every person, preference, or dish you are serving. 2-3 good, versatile wines should do the trick. I’ve tried to host parties myself where I painstakingly choose wine for each dish I have made and try to make sure everyone has the right wine in their glass at the right time for the right dish…it’s like herding cats! So relax, and just go with it when your aunt is drinking Pinot Grigio with her prime rib and your cousin is drinking Red Zinfandel with the warm goat cheese appetizer. I like to offer a medium bodied, dry white wine; a lighter red; and a medium-full bodied red that is more food friendly. “Food friendly” is a general wine term that means it is enjoyable with a variety of foods. The staff in our wine department are so knowledgeable and a great resource. I love to bring them my menu and my wine wishes – they are great at choosing wines for me right within my price point.

What’s the best wine to serve with ___?

To help you figure out a perfect pairing I’ve enlisted the help of my most trusted wine advisor, Brian Maloney, our amazing Category Manager for Wine and Beer at HL. Here’s what Brian says:

The following are some great suggestions, but wine is special and unique, and there will always be exceptions to the “rules.” If it’s not the perfect pairing…don’t sweat it…just enjoy the wine!

Turkey: Pinot Noir, Beaujolais, Dolcetto, Etna Rosso, Northern Rhone Syrah, Chardonnay, Rose, Sparkling.

Ham: Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Rose, Sparkling.

Beef: Bordeaux, Bordeaux-style blends (from California or Washington State), Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Barolo, Brunello di Montalcino, Chateauneuf du Pape.

Light White Fish with citrus-based sauce: Sauvignon Blanc, Unoaked Chardonnay, Italian White, French White, Pinot Gris, Sparkling.

Salmon, Tuna, or Swordfish: Pinot Noir, Loire Valley Cabernet Franc, Rose, Sparkling or any of the above whites.

A vegetarian meal: Try to match to the protein or to the sauce.

Veggie based dish: Light Whites – Pinot Grigio, Unoaked Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Rose.

Savory (mushroom based/ lentils): French or Oregon Pinot Noir, Syrah, Rhone Reds, Grenache-based blends from France, Spain or California.

Spicy (think Mexican or curry-based): Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Sparkling, Rose, Spanish Reds (Mexican only).

Tomato Based (Pizza, Pasta): Italian reds – Chianti, Barbera, Nebbiolo, Dolcetto.

If you are in doubt, we’ve put together 6 wines, along with a pairing chart, for $65, that should meet your needs this holiday season!