(PART 1: APPETIZER PLATTER)
Food and wine pairing can be intimidating. In grad school, I attended a dinner and was tasked with bringing a bottle of wine and appetizers. I knew nothing about wine (and even less about pairing) and here I was, the opening act. No pressure, right?
So, I headed to the nearest Barnes & Noble (yes, I’m that old) and looked through a few books and magazines. Surprisingly, not much there. Next stop was the local Vons because, unlike most cities today, we had no local wine shops or artisanal stores. The clerk pointed me to the wine aisle and some prepackaged sliced cheese. This was going to be harder than I thought.
The next day, in a Hail Mary, I jumped on the commuter train and headed into the “Big City.” I was determined; I really wanted to impress my friends! The farmers’ market was open and, fortunately, I was able to get some great advice and supplies. That night I walked into the dinner proud and confident. Food and wine in tow. The host was pouring in Dixie cups, laid out paper plates, and someone brought El Pollo Loco as the main course. While the wine and appetizers were a hit, I learned another valuable lesson about wine pairing . . . know your audience!
To save you the trouble, we’ve created a few simple wine and appetizer platters that are sure to please all palates and will work whether you’re a student on a budget or a partner in Big Law. Happy hunting!
1. Spanish Charmer
|The Cheese:||Manchego and Idiazabal. If you want to get fancy, add Cabrales (a strong and spicy blue cheese) or Torta del Casar (a creamy sheep’s milk cheese).|
|The Meat:||Jamón Ibérico and Chorizo.|
|The Garnish:||Marcona almonds and olives (preferably, Manzanilla or Gordal).|
|The Vehicle:||Sliced rustic bread or crackers.|
|The Wine:||Cava (a sparkling white) and a Tempranillo (or young Rioja).|
2. Simple, Sweet n’ Salty
|The Cheese:||Fresh goat cheese log|
|The Garnish:||Deshelled pistachios, fig spread, and honey.|
|The Vehicle:||Sliced baguette or Raincoast Crisps (easily available at Whole Foods!). Best with Fig & Olive, Cranberry & Hazelnut, or Date & Almond Crisp versions.|
|The Wine:||Sauvignon Blanc or Cabernet Franc.|
3. Sophisticated Italian
|The Cheese:||Burrata (or Mozzarella), Parmigiana, Taleggio, and Caprino.|
|The Meat:||Soppressata, Speck Dell-Alto Adige, ‘Nduja, and Prosciutto.|
|The Garnish:||Marcona almonds, Castelvetrano olives, roasted red peppers, seasonal fruits (e.g., grapes, pears, or figs), and honey.|
|The Vehicle:||Sliced baguette (or flatbread). If you want to kick it up a notch, grilled crostini.|
|The Wine:||Fiano or Pinot Grigio (preferably from Alto Adige) for a white. Chianti Classico or Borolo (if you want something bold) for a red.|
4. French “Joie de vivre”
|The Cheese:||Cantal, Comté, Tomme de Savoie, Saint-Nectaire, Ossau-Iraty, and Roguefort (or Blue D’Auvergne).|
|The Meat:||Duck Terrine, Saucissons, Jambon de Bayonne, and Foie Gras.|
|The Garnish:||Gougeres (small cheese puffs), cornichons, and grapes.|
|The Vehicle:||Fresh sliced French baguette (of course!)|
|The Wine:||Sauterne or Monbazillac for a white. Bordeaux (preferably from Saint-Emillion) for a red.|
5. The Smorgasbord
|The Cheese:||Brie, smoked Gouda, aged sharp Vermont cheddar, Manchego, and Stilton blue.|
|The Meat:||Prosciutto, Soppressata, Chorizo, Salami, and Pâté.|
|The Garnish:||Pistachios, Macadamia nuts, fig spread, honey, cornichons, olives (preferably, Manzanilla or Castelvetrano), and seasonal fruits (e.g., grapes, pears, and French melons)|
|The Vehicle:||Sliced baguette and crackers.|
|The Wine:||Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon.|
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