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How to Match Wine with a Dinner Party

Posted by Bryan on 1/6/2014 to Wine-Food Pairing
It's easy to fade into the background of a dinner party and become just another face at the table. But you can make a positive impression by arriving with the gift of wine. Show up with a bottle thoughtfully chosen that will appeal to hosts and guests, and instantly become the toast of the party. Matching the chosen bottle with an unknown menu is not a simple matter, but a little knowledge of wine and a healthy amount of common sense allows the wine bearer to select a bottle or two that conforms to the food being served and the palate of the guests. Who knows, the bottle may be the first of the evening to be opened and begin a popular topic of conversation.

Although challenging, picking a suitable wine for a dinner party doesn't require a crystal ball or clairvoyance. The solution is far simpler, requiring little more than knowledge of food and how it pairs with a wine's aroma and taste. In fact, due to the diverse selection of wines from around the world, it should be a cinch to pick out the perfect companion wine that matches any kind of food. The issue is a little more challenging if we don't know what's being served at the dinner table.

It's possible to gamble and purchase a bottle, hoping it doesn't grate with the sweetness of the meal. Maybe the food won't overcome the flavor of the chosen bottle, rendering it bland in comparison to an exotic meal. Worse still, the taste of the wine won't be so formidable that it overpowers the taste of the food prepared by the host.

When looking to make a good first impression, it may not be a risk worth taking. Instead, employ some research, dedicate a modicum of effort in balancing the wine with any food choice likely to be placed on the table. Opt for a wine that's neither too sweet nor likely to overwhelm delicate taste buds. Consider the likelihood of meat and side dish selections based on knowledge of the tastes of the host. If new to the group, ask a friend or acquaintance for a little background information.

It's not cheating to recruit this knowledge, simply careful preparation in the service of creating that good first impression. If the house often serves spicy meals, then a higher alcohol content in the wine will accentuate the heavenly taste, enriching the experience of eating an Indian or Thai dish. The same approach applies to any choice of meat and the infinite combinations of flavors within a meal. If you pair the wine with the character of both the meal and the host, you can be confident that it will complement the choice of cuisine.

For an unknown menu, pick a bottle of wine that strikes a balance between light and full-bodied, avoiding a selection that may overpower or be overwhelmed. Think of mirroring flavors--complementing or contrasting the flavor of the wine in counterpoint to the meal.
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