Whether you have cabin fever or mid-winter blues, warm your house with the delicious smells wafting from the kitchen & the constant ringing of the doorbell as friends & neighbours arrive. Here’s an article Debbie wrote that appeared in the latest issue of Ottawa at Home Magazine.
Hosting a gathering of any kind – dinner party, potluck or cocktails – can be hectic & unnerving even for the best prepared host. Having the evening fully catered definitely takes the weight off the menu but really part of the fun is planning the menu & cooking for your guests. With this underway, you are then faced with the looming question – what drinks to serve and should it be white wine or red wine – or something else entirely?
“I have been called on numerous times for suggestions of crowd pleasing wines that won’t break the bank…yet will impress”, says Debbie Trenholm, Sommelier & founder of Savvy Company. “I even had someone call me from the Spanish wine aisle at the LCBO & couldn’t decide which ones to buy. So they texted me photos of what was on the shelf & we shopped ‘virtually’ together!”
Debbie’s tips for your next fun wine & food filled evening:
The 30-70 rule – buy 30% white wine & the rest red wines, especially in the winter when it is natural to want a glass of heavier wine
Chill your wine in the snow! No need for bags of ice when there is lots of snow around. Shovel the white stuff into a wine bucket or place bottles in the snowbank at the front door or on your back deck.
Have a mini wine tasting. Give each guest or set each place at the table with 2 or 3 wine glasses and a sampling (2 oz or so) of different wines in each. Throughout the evening ask your guests which wine they think is best with the food. Guaranteed that this will become a lively conversation!
A quick Wine & Food Pairing 101
“Stay close to your roots. Or, rather, stay close to your wine’s roots. Wines are always best matched with foods from the regions where they are made”, says Debbie about pairing wine and food. “Uncork a bottle of wine from Italy with a meal of Italian cuisine – afterall, both the wine and food from this country were meant to go together. Same with French, German, Spanish fare…and Canadian too!”
White or red wine? Toss out the idea to match your wine with the meat. Fish, chicken and meat is the canvas — what matters is flavour. Make your choice on the spices, marinade or sauce—choose the wine that will make your meal sing. Debbie offers these ‘rules of thumb’:
…spicy food – look to the hard-to-pronounce white wine
If you’re tucking into an Indian curry, Thai dish or Mexican dinner, uncork a bottle of Gewürztraminer – the light and naturally sweet wine will play with the exotic spices and ingredients that will add WOW to your meal.
…salad – go bone dry
Think dry and crisp when matching to salads. The acidity of the vinegar in the dressing can play havoc with the wine, making it taste more acidic or ‘tinny’. Pinot Grigio from Italy or Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand are always safe bets. Or Debbie suggests to simply skip serving wine with this course to take a break and cleanse the palate for the rest of the meal to come.
…grilled fish – smell the flowers & roses
With grilled fish you can swing both ways by serving a glass of a medium bodied floral white wine like Viognier (pronounced vee-oh-NYAH) that complements the flavours of the fish or a light bodied red wine such as Gamay or Pinot Noir – one that has notes of red roses – to amplify the charred flavours.
…heavier meats – need heat & smoke
Warm spice (think cinnamon and cloves), smoke and plum aromas and tastes in a red wine go superbly with the marinade on lamb chops, saucey spareribs or a herb encrusted roast beef. Add to your shopping list a bottle of Carmenère from Chile (pronounced car-men-EHR) or a red Zinfandel from California.
Looking for a shopping list of wines?
Cheers & bon appétit!