Much as we enjoy wine, it would not be a wine tasting party without some wine tasting food. Wine appetizers make some of the best wine and food pairings we can think of. Come to think of it, your gathering needn’t be a wine tasting party to enjoy some wine appetizers. Whether you are serving a formal dinner or just having a friend over for movie night, wine tasting food is always welcomed.
Wine and cheese is, of course, the classic combo, but we have a full buffet of alternative sweets and salts to make your affair memorable and the wine taste even better. We’ll run through some of the basic wine and food pairings first.
Wine and Cheese Appetizers
Burgers and fries, wine and cheese—timeless classics. These selections are the classic wine appetizers, palate-pleasers and crowd favorites for every tasting party.
Cheese is the staple of wine and food pairings.
All wine is to an extent acidic, but the softer, fattier flavors of cheese punch down the acid and pick up the fruit of the wine. Your best bet is to spread an array of cheese varieties ranging from hard to medium firmness. Softer cheeses can also work, but are more difficult to pair, especially so as the cheese rises on the scale of pungency.
Crackers are the natural accompaniment to wine and cheese.
Expand your cracker vocabulary to include homemade “crackers,” such as toast. Crackers are not only a cheese delivery system, but also a flavor component themselves. Since wine and cheese are strongly-flavored, and you really want to highlight either the wine or the pairing, keep the crackers on the simple side to avoid flavor overload and confusion.
Crusty, toasty Bruschetta makes a wonderful wine snack.
Tomato, basil, a sprinkle of cheese over good crisp Italian bread and a glass of red wine makes a light meal with soup or salad.
Wine Snacks to Mine the Salts
Bars have been doing it for years, and while it may seem like a cheap trick to encourage more drink purchases, there is an established science behind bar snacks. Add something salty or briny on the snack platters to pair with your chosen wines.
They are excellent wine snacks. Rather than pour a bowl of mixed nuts, if budget permits, serve nut varieties separately. Guests can make their own assortment. Control over which nuts you taste while enjoying a particular wine can help focus on the flavor combination. Definitely think outside the box of peanuts to pair with wine. Consider almonds, macadamia, pistachio, walnuts, pine nuts and cashews.
Offer an olive branch on your buffet.
Briny, cured olives, an antipasto stalwart, have become fashionable wine snacks at upscale gatherings. The gourmet section of your local supermarket likely has several varieties of olives sporting different sizes, colors and flavors. They dress up the buffet, and their salts blend beautifully with the fruit in wine.
Chocolate and Dried Fruit as Wine Appetizers
Some may consider pairing chocolate and wine a controversial idea, but it’s one of my favorite after-dinner indulgences. As a dessert or an evening snack, a glass of wine paired with fruit and chocolate is a wonderful way to relax and savor the flavors.
Indulge in chocolate.
Let the purists bray and snort. Chocolate and red wine can be amazing together. Who cares if you can’t taste anything else quite right afterwards? You’ve had your wine and chocolate. You’ve lived a full life.
Case in point: I once overheard a conversation between two young women. One was talking about how wonderful her evening had been with her new boyfriend, about how beautiful, romantic, and sexy it was. It was perfect. Her friend asked her what the best part of the night was, in a low, suggestive voice, clearly angling for juicy details. “We had wine and chocolate,” said her friend, without in any way disparaging the rest of the night’s activities.
Keep it simple on the chocolate, however. Serve good quality chocolate- rule out anything that says “fun size” on the wrapper.
Snack on fruit with wine.
Dried fruit prove to be pleasers, too, especially among a lighter-eating, white wine crowd. Riesling, Gewrztraminer, and Chardonnay can pair well with dried fruits, but so do many of the Italian reds, such as Chianti, Barolo and Bardolino. Tawny Port is a natural with dried fruit, and sometimes featured as a restaurant dessert. Try Pinot Noir alongside dried cherries and berries.
If your buffet has room for a selection of wines, appetizers and cheeses, your event will be off to a good start. We’ll leave the pairing of friends and family up to you.