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How to Choose Wine Pairings for Your Next Event

Food and wine can both be amazing on their own, but a stellar pairing elevates both. Fortunately you don't need to be a sommelier to create killer combos. Just keep this one guiding principle in mind (and this cheat-sheet saved on your phone) to wow guests at your next event.

Finding Balance

The key to wine pairings is balance. Consider the richness of the food and the flavor of the wine. Both need to be equal and neither should overpower the other. 

Think about the "weight" of the food to determine its richness. It's all in the fat content. Fattier dishes need a more robust wine, while lighter dishes correspond better to a fruitier option. A dish's complexity also comes into play. A meal that contains lots of intense flavors needs a heartier red wine to stand up to it, while a lighter, simpler meal pairs well with a fresh white.

Instinct is a great guide while doing this. Think of two of the most common pairings: red wine with red meat and white wine with seafood. Nothing pairs better with rich juicy red meat like a bold Cabernet or Bordeaux. Here, a hearty meal requires a vigorous wine. If you served it with a white, the wine's flavor would be completely overrun. The opposite is true with lighter meals. A seafood dish, for example, would be dominated by a rich red, while a light white would harmonize with its flavors. 

Your Cheat Sheet

Of course, there's no reason you can't use a few resources to help you find your perfect pairing. Keep some of these in mind the next time you host:

Pinot Noir: Pair with earthy flavors, such as mushrooms and truffles.

Malbec: Perfect for bold flavors. Try it with heavily sauced foods like barbeque chicken.

Syrah: Full of spicy notes, syrah goes well with heavily spiced foods, especially those with cumin flavors.

Riesling: Because it is slightly sweet, riesling is the perfect way to take the edge off of spicy Asian and Indian dishes.

Chardonnay: Chardonnay pairs beautifully with seafood, particularly those with a rich sauce.

Sauvignon Blanc: You'll find that this zippy wine stands up against tangy flavors. Use it with dishes that have strong citrus flavors. 

Champagne: Champagne is a wonderfully refreshing complement to salty dishes, including many Japanese meals. 

A Note on Chocolate

Wine and chocolate is a decadent way to end a meal. The rule of thumb here is the same as with your main course: match the intensity of the wine's flavor with the intensity of the chocolate. White chocolate goes well with sweet whites likes moscato and riesling. Milk chocolate is lovely with pinot noir or merlot. Pair a dark chocolate with zinfandel or syrah.

The best part about wine pairing? Getting to experiment and enjoy different flavors. Have fun!

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