Wine and Appetizer Pairings: a quick guide
The best wine to pair with appetizers and hors d'oeuvres rather depends on whether they precede a meal, as is traditional, or, as is the way now, actually ARE the meal. We all seem to enjoy grazing these days.
The challenge is that people tend to serve multiple appetizers at once, each with contrasting flavors and massive variety: cold, hot, heavy, fresh, spicy, and often quite salty. The wines you choose should be palate-cleansing as much as quaffable.
Chances are too, you’re having company, so you’ll also want to pick crowd-pleasing wines that all your friends will enjoy.
A few general guidelines for pairing wine with appetizers:
A good choice if the appetizers are performing their traditional role as pre-meal nibbles - particularly good with anything crisp, crunchy or deep-fried. Prosecco will be most people's favourite these days though there are many other good sparkling wines including cava, franciacorta and, of course champagne.
Think fresh, unoaked whites rather than a rich white like chardonnay which is better with a meal. Sauvignon blanc is generally popular but a crisp Italian white like pinot grigio or gavi generally go down well too especially with Italian antipasti. And although many people think they don't like riesling in practice they generally do, especially with spicy snacks. If you enjoy it, go for it!
More challenging as although many people like full-bodied reds like cabernet sauvignon and shiraz they can be a bit heavy at the start of the evening. Think more in terms of medium-bodied reds like pinot noir and merlot and lighter styles of zinfandel.
A great option and not just for summer. Dy rosés from Provence and elsewhere in Southern France are hugely versatile and can stand up to big flavours. A good choice for charcuterie, cheese and tapas.
Not for everyone but if you're into tapas you can't beat a chilled fino or manzanilla sherry. I'd offer the choice of one or two other wines - either white, rosé or red - too though
Wine pairings for popular appetizers
If you are only serving one appetizer here's the type of wine to look for:
Artichokes are tricky and can make wine seem sweeter than it is so make sure your wine is bone dry. Italian whites such as pinot grigio work well or try a chilled fino sherry.
Prosecco, rosé, or an off-dry riesling.
French Onion Dip
Not only oniony but creamy too. A citrussy sauvignon works well or try a fresh, young chenin blanc
Go for a drier style of prosecco or a Gavi de Gavi.
Pigs in blankets
Bread encased hot-dogs, a Super Bowl Party classic which may steer you towards a beer. Wine-wise I'd be inclined to go for a light, fruity pinot noir.
Pickles need something light, crisp, and fruity to handle the acidity. A sharply flavoured white like a picpoul or pinot grigio should do the trick. Or a dry riesling.
A soft juicy red like a merlot or a sauvignon blanc both work well
Bruschetta and crostini
The classic bruschetta is topped with fresh tomatoes with which you could drink a dry Italian white like pinot grigio or a red like Chianti. Richer toppings like chicken livers are better with a red like a Chianti or Barbera.
Again natural beer food but given the melty cheese I'd go for a medium-bodied fruity red rather than a white if you fancy a glass of vino. Merlot or zinfandel would both hit the spot.
With Italian style antipasti I'd generally choose a dry Italian white like a pinot grigio or verdicchio but dry Provençal-style rosé also works really well. As do light Italian reds like Valpolicella, Teroldego and Refosco particularly if your antipasti predominantly consists of cold meats.
Champagne (or other champagne-like sparkling wine) is the classic pairing but there are many other options including sauvignon blanc as you can see from this post.
Garlic Cheesy Tear and Share Bread
What's not to like about this indulgent snack? Garlic goes really well with sauvignon blanc so you can happily serve that or a juicy red like zinfandel for that matter. And personally I wouldn't be averse to a glass of sparkling wine.
You might also find these posts useful:
- The best food pairings for rosé
- What sort of food to pair with prosecco?
- Best food pairings with sauvignon blanc
- Wine and Cheese Pairing for Beginners
- 6 of the best Spanish Wines to pair with Tapas
Regular contributor Monica Shaw writes mainly about outdoor living and healthy eating. You can find her websites at smarterfitter.com and eatsleepwild.com.
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