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wines for special occasions

Best Wines for Your Special Occasion

Certain wines and foods are meant for each other. Consider the following when serving wine at your special occasions.

Wines for Weddings

cakeWhen the subject of weddings come up, visions of meaningful wedding toasts and wonderful, bubbly Champagnes often come to mind. But which Champagne should your offer at your wedding? What about the best wedding wines to serve and savor on your special day? If you are a Wine Lover and are hoping to incorporate your passion for the vine into your big day there are plenty of unique and creative options to do just that!

A Marriage of Food and Wine

For starters, consider what flavors, styles and varieties of foods you will be serving at the reception, then you can with the selected foods to bring the unique flavors out the best. If you are planning on serving several types of wine in addition to champagne you may consider a combination of whites and reds.

The ever popular Chardonnay, the wine world’s current favorite white wine, or a cool crisp Riesling would more than fit the bill for the white wine category. As for red wines to consider, Cabernet Sauvignon is always a party hit for red wine drinkers, or for those who prefer a softer red with more versatile food-pairing options, a Pinot Noir would be a perfect pick. Last, but not least, you may consider serving a few bottles of White Zinfandel (I can hear you, hard-core “real” Wine Lovers groaning), but the fact is White Zinfandel has a following and many of those followers find themselves at wedding receptions!

The Toast

Wine-themed Wedding Favors

Fun wine wedding favors will help to celebrate your big day with family and friends. You can find everything from wine goblet placecard holders to heart-shaped wine bottle stoppers. You can even pick your own wine and wedding wine labels at Signature Wines. These wines are ideal for guest favors or for reception decor and pouring.

Best Wines for Your Thanksgiving Feast

holiday winesWith Thanksgiving quickly approaching, there is no better time to start planning your dinner menu and selecting wines to complement your feast. Historically, the week before Thanksgiving is a great time to buy wine as many wine merchants will run specials on preferred wines.

The big question – which wine or wines to go with the variety of tastes, textures and aromas that uniquely present themselves on Thanksgiving day? Should you choose one wine to carry you through appetizers to desserts – a tough request, but certainly doable. Or should you choose several wines to accent different components of the meal and cater to a variety of guests’ palates? The choice is entirely up to you, but here are some options to get you started.

From appetizers, to white and dark turkey meat, mashed potatoes, yams, herb-filled stuffing, cranberry relish, pickled this and peppered that, all the way to pumpkin or pecan pie – is there truly a single wine that can take you seamlessly from start to finish? The art of pairing wines with food is largely a matter of personal preference, but some tried and true Thanksgiving wines are Pinot Noir and Syrah/Shiraz and Zinfandel for red wine lovers and Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Riesling, Gewurztraminer for those who prefer white wines. Typically wines that offer a light-medium body and present themselves with lower tannin levels and less complexity are better suited to the vast array of flavors they are meant to complement.

Best White Wine Options

  • Sauvignon Blanc – a crisp white wine that is noted for its earthy, herbaceous flavors – a prime candidate specifically for turkey and herb-filled stuffing.
  • Viognier – a white wine with low levels of acidity and characterized by light floral flavors often surrounded by delicate touches of peaches and pears.
  • Riesling – a white wine that may either be bone dry or fairly sweet, excellent with any dishes that may have a bit of spice to them.
  • Gewurztraminer– another white wine that may present itself dry or sweet, depending on the style. This wine has a zestiness that allows it to pair nicely with side dishes that may have a bit more kick to them, but also settles well with a variety of dessert options.

Top Red Wine Options

  • Pinot Noir – this red wine is a traditional favorite for Thanksgiving. It is easy going enough to complement just about any flavor you can throw at it.
  • Zinfandel – a red wine that ups the intensity from a Pinot Noir, but still maintains a balancing effect on many traditional side dishes. This would be a great pick for those looking for a heartier wine with deeper flavors.
  • Syrah/Shiraz – another red wine that picks up the intensity and flavor, yet graciously handles the cornucopia of flavors in a traditional Thanksgiving meal. The peppery notes will accent a flavorful helping of stuffing as well as both the white and dark turkey meats.
  • Beaujolais Nouveau – a light, fruity red wine that goes very well with turkey and all of the fixings. This wine is released from France on the third Thursday of November, just in time to highlight your Thanksgiving feast!

Another apt consideration if you are looking for a single wine to serve this Turkey day is a sparkling or rosé wine. Both provide a capable go between for those that are not firmly camped in either the red or white wine trenches. If you are considering a sparkling wine you may choose one labeled as “extra dry” – which will offer a touch more fruit flavor than a brut. As for rosé wines, a drier selection will be the most versatile for pairing with virtually any part of the Thanksgiving feast. Keep in mind that if you are hosting 5 or 50 guests this Thanksgiving that you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to offer a lovely selection of wines. There are many well-received, well-rated value wines that you can obtain for $10 or less.

Wine Suggestions for Christmas Dinner

holiday winesChristmas dinners are a great time to try new wines with favorite recipes of old. Will it be ham, turkey, goose or prime rib? Looking for wine options to complement your holiday meal? Look no further, here is a terrific selection of versatile whites and reds that are sure to enhance your Christmas gathering. Christmas dinner may be the largest family gathering of the year. To make your gathering extra special here are several wonderful wines varietals to get you started.

Wines to Serve with Ham
Reds: Beajolais Nouveau , Pinot Noir, Zinfandel
Whites: Riesling and Gewurztraminer

Wines to Serve with Turkey
Reds: Pinot Noir , Zinfandel , Syrah/Shiraz, Beajolais Nouveau
Whites: Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Riesling, Gewurztraminer

Wines to Serve with Goose
Reds: Zinfandel , Red Burgundy
Whites: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc

Wines to Serve with Prime Rib
Reds: Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Shiraz

 

A Few Hints to Start Your Matchmaking

Like a good marriage, wine and food were meant for each other. Each enhances and strengthens the experience of the whole. So why is it so daunting to try to pair foods with wines? Rumor has it that there are hefty laundry lists of rules and regulations that require strict adherence in order to obtain the perfect wine and food pairing.
Grab a pen and paper to write down rule #1.

Rule #1 states that there are NO rules when matching your favorite wines with your beloved recipes, sure there are hints and popular, even “famous” matches, but ultimately the best match is what pleases your palate. It is truly personal preference. That said, here are some hints to help you determine what might be palate pleasing for you personally.

Flavor Interactions

First let’s consider flavor interactions.

You are only able to detect four distinct flavors with your tongue: sweet, sour, salty and bitter; while your nose is able to decipher over 200 different aromas. Between the combination of sensory uptakes from both your tongue and your mouth you are able to experience a vast array of flavor characteristics and nuances. As you begin to pair wines with foods, keep in mind that the flavors of the foods can both contradict and compliment wine selections, and both can be good. For example, a sweet Riesling can make a bag of salty chips taste even more appealing by contrasting the saltiness while yielding some of its intrinsic sweetness, or when paired with a rich dessert like cheesecake the sweetness of the wine would likely mellow in flavor due to the overriding influence of the cheesecake.

Heavy vs. Light – Next, consider whether a dish is “heavy” or “light” in nature, the difference between a meal consisting of steak and potatoes or one that tends toward a chicken and vegetable stir-fry. In general, most people seem to prefer heartier foods paired with fuller-bodied red wines and lighter fare to be complimented by more delicate white wines. Again, these are preference generalizations, a place to start and then experiment with your own combinations. Some tend to find it easier to remember red wines with red meats and white wines enhance white meats.

Other Factors to Consider – Other factors to take into account when looking at pairing potentials is the foods acidity. Acidic foods, like a Greek salad or lemon-based sauce work well with wines that share an acidic undertone (Pinot Grigio for example). While foods that lean to the sweeter side, like a chicken apple salad, tend to pair well with wines that are just a bit drier than the food they are to compliment (for example an off-dry Riesling).

Whatever match you make with foods and wines, enjoy the adventure, and don’t get too caught up in the rumored regulations. Make a note of pairings you’ve enjoyed for future reference and keep mixing and matching to learn how each component offers influences, be they subtle or strong.

What is your favorite wine for special occasions? Why? Leave your suggestions below. 

tips on serving and enjoying wine

Tips for Serving and Enjoying Wine

Many customs have accompanied wine drinking through the years. None of them are meant to be intimidating or stuffy. They are just practices intended to enhance the enjoyment of wine.

  • “White wine with fish and red wine with meat” is more customary than culinary.
  • Red wines are served at room temperature, while white wines, roses, and champagnes are served chilled.
  • The stronger the food, the stronger the wine. The lighter the food, the lighter the wine.
  • Wine loves air, which revives its sleeping flavors. It is recommended to open the bottle about an hour before consumption and let the wine “breathe”. This ages it a year or so, and allows its flavors to mellow.
  • A bottle of wine has to be handled carefully, with the minimum movement possible. Remember, wine likes to sleep, only to awaken in your mouth.
  • Red wine bottles do not need to be cleaned or dusted before opening. They are opened on a hard surface. White wines, rose, and Champagne bottles are opened in ice buckets.
  • Red wines corks are sniffed to make sure the wine has not spoiled, which gives the cork an unpleasant smell. It is not necessary to smell white and rose wine corks since the wine was refrigerated and the cork will not smell.

Food & Wine Matching

PizzaDoes it matter what wine is served with a particular food or dish?

First of all it is important to take into account personal taste. If a particular combination pleases you then it is the right choice for you.

The principal reason for food and wine matching is to enhance the overall experience of a dish or meal by pairing it with a wine that will complement it. Think about strawberries and cream, how when combined they are more delicious than when eaten separately, even though they are tasty foods individually.

 

What should I think about when matching wine with food? 

Remember it is a matter of personal taste, so choose combinations you find particularly pleasing.
Many wine styles evolved to complement the cuisine of the region, and so this is a good starting point for finding a food and wine combination.

Have fun, be brave and experiment. Many excellent combinations have been discovered this way.

 

Where can I find some food and wine matching suggestions?

For food and wine matching ideas, inspirations and suggestions go to our Food and Wine Matching pages.

 

Is there such a thing as a safe bet food and wine pairing?

Some food and wine combinations work so well that they are truly marriages made in heaven. For example:

  • Sauvignon Blanc with asparagus
  • Champagne with oysters
  • Pinot Grigio with parma ham and melon
  • Red Bordeaux with roast Lamb
  • Beaujolais with roast pork
  • German Riesling Kabinett with sushi

 

Are there foods that are impossible to match with wine?

Listed below are foods which are very difficult or impossible to match well with wine. In these instances all you can do is find the best possible match, or better still limit the amount of that particular food. For example, horseradish spoils the flavour of wine so take a small serving rather than great dollops of horseradish sauce with your Roast Beef.

  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Capers
  • Cheese
  • Chilli
  • Chocolate
  • Eggs
  • Fennel
  • Horseradish
  • Lemon/Lime
  • Olives
  • Spinach
  • Tomatoes
  • Truffles
  • Vinaigrette
  • Yoghurt

 

Guide to Food and Wine Matching

To achieve the best match it is necessary to analyse the basic components in both the wine and the food. The principal is to try to balance them so that neither the food nor the wine overpowers the other.

The main elements to consider are:

  • Weight
  • Flavour Intensity and Characteristic
  • Acidity
  • Salt
  • Tannin
  • Sweetness

Weight – try to match the weight of the food with the weight of the wine. Rich, heavyweight foods, like red meat casseroles need full-bodied wines. Normally it is powerful Red wines that are the favoured choice but it is the weight of the wine, not the colour or flavour, which is the most important consideration. Hence a full-bodied White wine is usually a better match with meat than a light-styled Red wine.

Lightweight food like poultry and fish are complemented by more delicate wines. Whilst a White wine is the instinctive choice light, low-tannin Reds also work.

Food and wine pairingsFlavour Intensity and Character – flavour intensity, although similar to weight, is not the same thing. A big bowl of boiled pasta or potatoes without a dressing or sauce is heavy in weight but light in flavour. As opposed to red or green bell peppers which are lightweight but very flavoursome. The same goes for wines; the Riesling variety makes lightweight, intensely flavoured wines whilst Chardonnay makes heavy (full-bodied) wines that are lightly flavoured.

Quite often it is not the dish’s main ingredient that is the dominant flavour. In a creamy chicken curry the sauce will be heavier and fuller flavoured than the chicken. In this instance you need to match the wine to the sauce.

The flavour characteristics of some foods and wines are very similar and consequently they make good combinations:

  • Fruit-based desserts can be matched with the “grapey” flavour of the Muscat variety.
  • Spicy dishes can be matched with Gewurtraminer, a variety often described as spicy. (Spicy wines may have white or black pepper, cloves, ginger, allspice aromas and flavours for example.)
  • Cream or butter sauces go well with wines that have been fermented in new oak barrels. Oak imparts vanilla-scented, buttery, creamy flavours to the wine.
  • Delicately flavoured wines like Italian Whites and Muscadet complement shellfish and seafood.

Acidity – food and wine can both have acidity. Tomatoes, citrus and green apples are high-acid foods. Certain grape varieties naturally produce high-acid wines, Muscadet for example. Wines from cool climates will have more acidity than those from hot climates.

When vinegar or lemon juice is used as a condiment you will need to find a high-acid wine to complement it. A classic example is Champagne served with smoked salmon and a squeeze of lemon.

High-acid wines are also used to cleanse the palate when eating oily food. Even without the lemon, smoked salmon is made more palatable when the Champagne cuts through the natural oiliness of the fish.

In Italy where many dishes are made with lots of olive oil you will find the majority of their Red wines have noticeable acidity and so complement the regional dishes perfectly. The wines’ acidity matches the acid characteristic also found in the tomatoes whilst cutting through the olive oil.

Salt – salt is not a flavour you will find in wine. Salty foods are enhanced and balanced by a hint of sweetness, Parma Ham and Melon is a classic example. The same thing can be achieved with wine; Sauternes, a very sweet dessert wine from the Bordeaux region, is a famous match with salty, Roquefort cheese.

It is unusual to want a sweet wine with a main course and because salt clashes with tannin (it makes tannin seem more bitter) in this instance it would be better to select a low-tannin wine.

Salt works with acidity, an example of this would be salty nibbles served with Champagne before a meal.

For a dry wine to work with salty food it should have low tannins and noticeable acidity. It is easier to find White wines with these characteristics than Reds, but there are some Red wines to fit the bill, Beaujolais is a perfect example.

Fresh strawberriesTannin – tannins cause your gums to pucker and dry when you drink wine. They are usually detected in Red wines because tannin comes from the grape skins and stalks and they are not used in White wine-making. Wines made from different grape varieties vary enormously in tannin content, some varieties being naturally low in tannins and others high. Cabernet Sauvignon has very thick skins and so makes very deeply coloured, high-tannin wines.

Wine tannins are attracted to fatty proteins (your saliva is full of protein molecules and this is why your gums pucker and dry when drinking tannic wines). Lamb is a good example of a food with a high-fatty protein content which when eaten coats the mouth with fat. If you then drink a tannic Red wine the tannin molecules attach themselves to the protein molecules and strip them from your mouth, leaving it feeling refreshed and cleansed and ready for the next mouthful.

Sweetness – sweet foods make dry wines seem over-acidic and tart. The general rule of thumb is to serve a wine at least as sweet or sweeter than the food being served.

Many sweet wines have a good level of acidity, Sauternes and Côteaux du Layons are good examples. This makes them a very good match for rich foods like pâté. The acidity will cut through the fat in the pâté and the wine’s sweetness will complement the richness of this food.

As mentioned previously, sweetness also balances salt and so sweet wines are classic companions of blue cheeses e.g. Port with Stilton.

What are some of your favorite wine and food combinations? List them in the comments.