The table is set. You’ve just served up a platter of lightly seasoned roast chicken alongside a bevy of traditional side dishes. Your dinner party sits chatting in the living room, awaiting the call to join the dinner table. It’s a nice occasion; you don’t get to have people over as often as you would like, and you want to make sure it feels just as special for them as it feels for you. And nothing says “special occasion” like uncorking a bottle of wine. So you walk over to your cabinet and take a look—and then the panic sets in. What is the best wine for chicken: red or white? Do you go with the two-year-old bottle or the five-year-old bottle? Should you just allow your guests to choose, or should you make the selection? It can be a bit overwhelming—but it doesn’t have to be.
Let Your Dinner Choose Your Wine
Yes, you read that right. You can’t go wrong with letting your dinner choose the right wine for your event. The basic rule of thumb is this: the lighter the meal, the lighter the wine. Lighter meals and smaller portions are best complemented with white wines, while richer, more filling meals are best paired with red wines. You can even let color determine your choice; meals with cream-based sauces (like alfredo dishes) are best served with white wines, while red wines are the perfect finish to red sauces like marinara or even barbecue.
Want another option? Let your main course determine your wine choice. When serving white meats like chicken, fish, or pork, opt for a white wine like chardonnay or sauvignon blanc. For red meats like beef or venison and other game, serve with a red wine like shiraz, merlot, or cabernet sauvignon. When serving spicier foods, opt for sweeter wines like Riesling and white zinfandel (both white) or, on the red side, pinot noir and lambrusco.
Also, age often doesn’t matter. Most wines are produced to be consumed while they are still young and fresh, with the majority not seeing a store shelf until two years after harvest. Some reds can be aged with positive results, but unless you have a cool, dark wine cellar where you can store them for a few years, it’s best not to try. Chances are if you can find it in a store, it’s perfectly okay to serve.
Dinner for 2 or Table for 12?
When choosing a wine, there are more things to consider than just the meal it accompanies. Are you creating the perfect romantic ambiance for two, or are you trying to keep an entire dinner party happy? Here’s how to handle either scenario.
For dinner parties with multiple courses, it’s best to change things up from course to course. Try serving a bubbly, sparkling wine before everyone sits down to eat; it cleanses the palette and provides a light, airy element to elevate the mood before dinner begins. For dinner, serve the wine that best complements your chosen dish (as described above). Finish off the evening with a red dessert wine, like a sweet sherry or port.
When choosing wine for a romantic dinner, you should know that you’re being tested on how well you know your date. Time to put on your detective hat and use your powers of observation. Does he have a sweet tooth? Does she drink a lot of soda? Does he like a little coffee with his sugar and cream, or does he drink it black? Once you figure out the tastes your dinner companion enjoys, you’re better prepared to select a wine for the evening. Try to keep it to just one, however; juggling multiple bottles of wine for just two people might send the wrong impression.
Tools of the Trade
So now that you’ve chosen the perfect wine for the evening, your job is done, right? You know better than that. Whether you’re hosting a dinner party or a low-key evening for two, you should always consider presentation. Kirkland’s has a fantastic selection of wine glasses that fit virtually any table setting, whether you’re looking for fancy, casual, or something in-between. Also, you can’t go wrong with a good wine tool kit; basic necessities include a corkscrew, a foil cutter, and a bottle stopper.
Now let’s talk display. A tabletop wine bottle holder is the perfect table companion for your romantic dinner, while a metal wine rack is an inexpensive storage and display solution for your wine collection. Wall-mounted wine racks add a decorative flourish to your kitchen or dining room while also providing the added luxury of not taking up floor or counter space. For the true connoisseur, a wine cabinet or wine tower provides a beautiful home for your collection, and many will also house your wine glasses and other accessories.
Whether you’re looking for an elegant complement to your dinner party or the perfect toast for two, choosing the right wine can help give your special evening a pleasing, bold finish with just the right amount of zip. Happy hosting!