You’re eating. You’re drinking. You’re hanging out friends. It’s definitely all good. But here are a few ideas for making your small party with wine pairings GREAT.
When you’re having a party, there are things to pay attention to. But avoiding the “wrong” combinations of food and wine definitely isn’t one of them.
In other words, don’t let anyone fool you into thinking that there’s a right or perfect way to enjoy food and wine. Especially at a party.
Instead, think of food and wine pairing is a place to have fun. A place to experiment. To try things and discover what works and doesn’t work for you. And enjoy the company of friends in the process.
Here, then, are some ideas for planning a finger food or app-oriented party of six to ten people with wine pairings.
Where To Start, The Food Or The Wine?
Should you pick a few appetizers first and then the wines to serve with them? Or should you pick a few wines and then the party foods to serve alongside?
The truth is that it doesn’t really matter. Maybe you have a few specific recipes in mind that you’d like to try or share. Maybe you have a bottle or two that you’ve been waiting for an occasion to open. Maybe you have both! Since we’re not worried about perfection here—only fun and experimentation—it doesn’t matter a lot. Start with whatever food or wine you want and build from there.
Choose A Hook Or A Theme
This is another way to answer the question of where to start.
Maybe you have a type of wine you’d like to learn more about. Cabernet Sauvignon, for example. You could serve a few bottles of Cab (or ask your guests to bring a bottle each), then serve some foods that go with it. You and your guests would get to try the different wines with the different foods, discover what works in pairing with it and maybe also discover a particular brand or producer of Cabernet that you like.
Or maybe you have a type of food you want to explore. Shrimp, for example. You could prepare a few different shrimp recipes and serve a few different wines that go with shrimp. You and your guests get to try different wines with the food and discover what works with shrimp.
You can expand from there, maybe choosing three recipes that each go with a different type of wine and serving those three wines alongside. That can be fun because there’ll be two recipes that each wine theoretically isn’t ideal with, as well as two wines that each recipe theoretically doesn’t go with. So you and your guests can try both “right” and “wrong” pairings and discover for yourself what works and doesn’t work.
Choosing wines or foods from a particular place or cuisine can be fun. Or choosing a specific type of wine—sparkling wine, for example—in a range of prices.
All great ways to go, and you can be as casual or formal as you want to be about them.
What Exactly To Serve At A Pairing Party?
Once you have some direction about what you generally want to do, how to pick the specific foods and wines for your party?
For the appetizers, I recommend three to six dishes for six to ten people, ideally a mix of cold foods and hot foods so you’re not a slave to the kitchen during the party. Err on the side of simple recipes versus complicated ones. Because it’s antithetical to fun to be stressed at your own event.
It’s also perfectly valid to ask people to bring things. It can even add to the success of a party—guests who bring things have a stake in the outcome.
For specific recipes and food and wine pairing tips, see the resources below.
For the wine, I recommend two to three glasses per person (there are about five glasses in a bottle), depending on how long the party lasts and how much your friends are drinkers. Pour small tastes rather than full glasses, since the idea is to try different wines with different foods.
Tip: Provide water or sparkling water and encourage drinking lots of it.
For specific bottles, let your wallet be your guide. Or again, ask friends to bring a bottle each. And if you have something specific in mind, a knowledgeable retailer can be a huge help.
A Final Reminder
This is a party! What’s important is that it’s fun. Not that it’s perfect. Or that it features the “right” combinations of food and wine.
So experiment. Play. And know that food and wine is simply a context for hanging out with people you love and enjoying each other’s company.
Posts in this Party Foods and Wine Pairing series:
Puff Pastry Tart with Apples, Parmesan, and Prosciutto, to go with sparkling wine
Shrimp Scampi Appetizer, to go with light white wine
Tuna Tartare, to go with light white wine
Baked Brie with Chutney, to go with off-dry white wine
Chicken Skewers with Rosemary with Garlic Aioli, to go with big white wine
Sweet Pepper Poppers, to go with rosé
Mushroom, Caramelized Onion, and Goat Cheese Flatbread, to go with light red wine
Stuffed Dates, to go with big red wine
A few appetizer recipes from my “100 Perfect Pairings” cookbooks:
Baked Chèvre with Herbes de Provence Breadcrumbs, to go with light white wine
Figs, Goat Cheese, and Mixed Greens with Candied Pecans, to go with rosé
Marinated Olives with Citrus and Garlic, to go with big red wine
Thanks so much for joining me in this series! I hope you learned something new and will most importantly, have fun with these recipes and tips. – Jill