Which Wines and Appetizers to Serve at Your Wine Tasting

by JJ Buckley Fine Wines

Glasses of wine on a table with assorted appetizers

Are you hosting a wine tasting at home? There’s nothing better than sampling a collection of new wines and sharing the experience with friends. Of course, it’s one thing to partake in wine tasting and another to host the event. Where do you begin, and how do you select appetizers for wine tastings?

The Basics of a Home Wine Tasting

A home wine tasting lets you create an intimate and comfortable setting for your guests. You’ll want to focus on the atmosphere, the tableware and the food.

And what about the wine? Here you’ll have a few options. You can supply it yourself, you can ask people to bring random bottles, or you can choose the varietal and leave the vintage to them. Random bottles can be exciting, but if you want appetizers to match, this option could be a bit tricky!

With that in mind, it’s understandable if you prefer to handle the wine selection yourself. Make sure you let your guests know the plan so they don’t bring extra bottles that could clash with your appetizers. And to help defer the costs, consider asking people to bring a monetary donation.

Now what about your guest list? While you can certainly invite as many people as you like, you’ll find that a guest list of 5 to 10 people creates the best balance. It offers plenty of people for lively conversation and wine selection, but not too many that you can’t share in the experience.

As for the number of bottles, it’s best to bring the equivalent of one bottle per invited guest. If you only want specific wines, consider two bottles of each if you have about 10 guests, or one bottle of each wine for 5 guests.

If you like, you can decide on a theme, a country or a specific wine region – such as Tuscany, Napa Valley, Provence or Germany’s Mosel Valley. This is where you can be as creative as you want!

Finally, make sure you set the table with enough wine glasses, napkins, plates, and spit buckets or spittoons. And consider a white tablecloth for contrast with all those gorgeous wines soon to be decorating your table.

Tips for Serving Appetizers with Wine

Just like full meals, appetizers have their own flavor profiles that can work with or against the wine you have in mind. For example, while big, bold reds work well with big, bold meats, they’ll simply overwhelm lightly flavored appetizers on the table.

As much as possible, match intensities and flavor profiles to keep the wine and the appetizer in harmony. This doesn’t mean flavors can’t have some variation – you simply want them to enhance one another, not clash.

  • Citrusy, acidic whites do well with citrusy, spicy and salty foods.
  • Robust reds match richer foods with higher fat content.
  • Creamy whites make a good pairing with buttery, creamy or fried appetizers.
  • Lighter reds have a lot of variety and match with citrusy, creamy and richer dishes.
  • Sparkling wines are ideal with salty or fried appetizers but also a tasty cheese plate.
  • Refreshing roses have excellent pairing with many appetizers, especially seafood, cheeses and cured meats.

Appetizer and Wine Pairings

Searching for a few ideas on what appetizers to pair with your wines? Read on for some wine and appetizer pairings sure to be a hit with your guests.

Riesling and Spicy Chicken Wings

An off-dry Riesling brings out the best in spicy appetizers like chicken wings. This is as much for the wine’s acidity and minerality as for its floral and subtle spice notes.

Syrah and Beef Sliders

Syrah is a bold wine, with intense fruits and a meatiness that makes it an excellent match for beef. The sliders can bring out even more flavor notes with toppings like onions and blue cheese.

Chardonnay and Crab Cakes

This is a classic pairing, and for good reason. The blend of buttery, rich flavors leads to a decadent combination that people turn to time and again. Oaky Chardonnays amp up the creaminess, while unoaked bring a pleasing crispness.

Prosecco and Tomato Bruschetta

It’s no surprise that these two Italian offerings work so well together. Both have an intriguing acidity that harmonizes and strengthens the inherent fruity notes.

Pinot Grigio and Artichoke Spinach Dip

This dry wine has a refreshing zestiness and a citrus profile that works well with the tang of artichoke and spinach.

Champagne and Smoked Salmon Bites

Big on flavor, smoked salmon needs a wine that can stand on its own – like Champagne. This bubbly wine is low in alcohol and high in acidity, serving as just the right pairing for a decadent appetizer.

Pinot Noir and Stuffed Mushrooms

As a lighter red wine with a dual fruity and earthy profile, pinot noir is primed for highlighting the earthiness of stuffed mushrooms. Lower tannins mean the wine won’t bite back – merely slide on down.

Sangiovese and Pecorino Toscano Cheese

Here is another Italian pairing, this time from Tuscany. Sangiovese is rich, acidic, fruity and earthy all in one, making it ideal for sheep’s milk Pecorino, an aged cheese with plenty of complexity of its own.

A Note on Appetizers

Don’t worry about making the perfect wine tasting appetizers if your time is limited. Simple appetizers prepared at home or purchased pre-made can help you put your focus on the best part – choosing and enjoying that wine.

Matching wine and appetizers for wine tasting doesn’t need to be complicated. If you’re gearing up for an at-home tasting, search our extensive catalog to find wines sure to broaden your taste buds. For personalized assistance, give us a call at JJ Buckley Fine Wines. We’d love to help you narrow your list or simply pick the bottle you can’t wait to try.