Host a Food and Wine Tasting

food and wine tastingA food and wine tasting can be simply a wine dinner party with wines paired with each of the foods. However, you can turn the experience into an exploration, a chance to sample several different food and wine pairing possibilities to critique, discuss and decide what you like best. The goal of such a tasting is to really get critical about specific food and wine pairing possibilities, to find what works best and what doesn't and figure out why. You can find a lot written about ideal wine and food pairings, but do you understand why certain combinations don't work? If not, try a food and wine tasting that pairs both classic pairings as well as things that shouldn't work and focus on what aspects of the food and wine benefit each other and which diminish the other. You'll quickly see why Sauvignon Blanc does not do well paired with a grilled steak, for example, and therefore your palate will be better calibrated to make great food and wine pairing decisions in the future. Here are a few ideas and tips on how to plan a food and wine tasting dinner party.

However you plan a food and wine tasting, pay attention to the details of why one wine works with a certain dish and why another does not, or visa versa. For some pairings, the magnitude is simply not congruent. For example, lighter flavored foods are best served with lighter flavored wines, so a light crisp Muscadet may do well with a fillet of sole, while a big, hearty red wine would clash. Likewise, an intensely flavored wine is best paired with full-flavored foods. Alternatively, some wines simply don't go with certain flavors in food, so pay attention to this as well. Does the floral aspects in a Viognier clash with the aromatic herbs in your soup? Did the spices you used in your marinade get in the way of appreciating the complexities of your wine? In other words, don't just pay attention to the overall gestalt of how the food and wine go together, but also analyze why they work or don't work.

Pair Several Wines with One Featured Course
One way to set up a food and wine tasting is to have one large featured course with which you pair several different wines. The wines can have something in common (all Cabernet Sauvignon based wines, for example) or they could be all over the map. This arrangement gives you and your guests the opportunity to see which types of wines pair well with that type of food. While you may confirm some of your expectations, you may occasionally be surprised and find a pairing that works beautifully even though on paper it doesn't sound like it should.

Pair Several Small Plates with One Featured Wine
Another option for a food and wine tasting is to pair several small plates with one featured wine. In other words, rather than several wines, feature one special wine that you love or has a great reputation. Serve several small dishes of different types of food. You can have a fish dish, and a meat dish, a cheese and a soup. Pair whatever you want with it and enjoy that one wine with each of the dishes. Then discuss which worked and which did not and why. This is a good way to focus in on one style of wine and to figure out what types of foods suit it the best.

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