ENTERTAINING LIKE A PRO… WITH GREAT WINE
Fall has already begun, we can’t quite feel it here in South Florida, but with festivities right around the corner, it’s the perfect time to start thinking about our holiday dinners, get-togethers, and parties. When you’re the host, what do you need to know to act like a pro? The menu, music, and décor are all part of what makes a great night, but I’ll focus on the wine and drinks. Just remember, if you nail the drinks, everything else will come second!
When hosting dinner, the two most important elements are timing and selection. You want to choose different wines for every step of the way, and you also want to keep in mind your guests and chose wines that everyone will enjoy. For example, you don’t want an overly oaky Chardonnay or a very tannic Cabernet unless you know your guests like that style of wines.. You want to be a great host, taking out each wine at the right time and not just having all bottles open at once for people to serve themselves.
At the beginning of the night, when you are passing out hors d’ouevres or have appetizers set up, it’s time to pop open that Champagne, Prosecco, or sparkling wine. Starting off the night with a sparkling wine will set the mood. Not only will it get everyone cheery, but it will also act as a palate cleanser from one appetizer to the next. (If you don’t like a sparkling wine, try a Vinho Verde, a white wine from Portugal that is slightly frizzy.)
Once dinnertime comes, I recommend serving the salad or first course with a white wine that is high in acid, as this will make the palate salivate and make every bite tastier. If you are having a salad with a citrus-based vinaigrette, I would choose an crisp, unoaked wine such as a Pinot Gris, an Albariño, or a delicious and floral Viognier. If you are having a creamy dressing, have a slightly oaked wine such as an Chardonnay (I like those from Oregon, as they tend to be less oaked than those from California) or even a funky, oaked Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc blend.
For the main course, there are a lot of options, depending on what you are serving, but as a rule of thumb, you want a wine heavier than the wine served during the first course. If you are having white meat (chicken, or turkey), try to pair it with a Beaujolais, or a Pinot Noir (try those from Willamette, Oregon, or Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez from California.) If you are having pork, pair it with a Chinon or Bourgeil (these are Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley in France,) or a medium-bodied Grenache from Walla Walla, Washington. For a beef dish, I recommend having a Bordeaux, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, or a majestic Barolo from Italy. And, if you are having lamb or any game, I would suggest a Syrah (Walla Walla, or Northern Rhone), a Petit Sirah from California or a fruity, spicey, full-bodied Zinfandel from Sonoma.
Now, time for dessert! This is where you can get creative as there are many different styles of after-dinner wines. The most popular one is a Port, which is perfect to pair with dark chocolate. You can also choose a Sauternes or a Tokaji for a fruit-based dessert. Or if you want to get funky, try a Madeira or a sweet style Sherry, which have flavors of caramel, toffee and dried fruits.
So now you know how to host like a pro. They key is timing… it’s about serving the right wine with the right food, slowly, while people enjoy the food, the wine and company. My suggestion is, try a new wine, ask for recommendations at your local wine shop or reach out to me via instagram. The goal is to have a great time and make memories that last a lifetime!