Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wine & Food Themed Holiday Parties

It’s that time of year when big bash parties are in full swing.  But maybe it’s time to consider hosting a simple wine and food themed evening with some of your wine-loving friends.  Here's just a few wine-minded ideas...

Vino & Fromage Party
Gather together some unusual cheeses and wines, and enjoy an evening tasting sensation.  You could theme the evening with aged cheeses and aged wines, all red wines with cheese, all whites and cheese, or just dessert wines and cheese. 

Once you’ve decided on your theme, gather your six or eight best pairings, some bread, fruits, and crackers.  Then grab a few small blackboards.  Place the cheese on decorative cheese leaves, and write the name of the cheese beside it. List optional wine parings there for others to try.  By the end of the evening, you may have many more pairing ideas than when you started

The basic pairing ideas for cheese and wine:  Pair a salty cheese with a sweet wine (dessert), a creamy cheese with a wine with acidity (white), and a hard cheese with a bolder, more tannic wine (red).

Try these to get started:

Take aged Gouda and pair with a Zinfandel or Barbera, something full bodied but not oaky so the cheese’s sweet yet salty flavors shine through.  If you’re pairing with white wine, try a Chardonnay or Riesling.

An aged Bleu cheese; Gorgonzola, Roquefort, or Blue Stilton are all quite audacious, and can pair well with a dessert wine such as a Port, Sherry, or Madeira. Or, go for a bold Cabernet or Zinfandel pairing and see what develops.
Munster is a soft cheese from France with a strong flavor.  It will pair well with Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir, and Zinfandel.  But don’t confuse it with Muenster cheese, an American white cheese that is much milder in flavor, and used more as a melting cheese.

Cheddar cheese is a great wine accompaniment.  Pair a mild cheddar with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Chardonnay, even Champagne. Try a sharp cheddar with Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc,
Cabernet, or Rioja.

For goat cheese, serve the Blancs - Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Fume Blanc.

Holiday Movie Night
Invite a few friends over and catch up on some old holiday classics.  Pull out the movie treats - popcorn, potato chips, and pretzels.  Sweet and salty reigns for this tasting! Here are just a few wines to consider:

For plain chips look to unoaked whites like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.  Want to take it to the top?  Try a sparkling wine or Champagne - perfect with plain, salty potato chips. 

Popcorn can be a difficult match but I love it with Vidal, Chenin Blanc, or a sparkling wine.  Nice, crisp, and clean flavors.

Pretzels go with more than beer.  Try with Pinot Noir, or a Lambrusco. A lotta crunch and a little salt can go a long way.

Retro Wine & Cheese Fondue Party

It is the Holidays - so do something totally different and host a cheese fondue party!  Gather up some crusty, dense breads, various cubed cheeses, and veggies, and check out the internet for some great fondue recipes. 

Fondue sets can be purchased, but to really be retro, check with older friends and relatives who may have some retired to the attic or basement.

Lean more toward wines with some body; Merlot, Zinfandel, and Malbec for reds; Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling or Gewurztraminer for whites.  These will stand up better to the dense breads and melting cheeses speared on that tiny fork. And remember to pair the red wines with the pungent cheeses, and the whites with creamier cheeses.

Sensual Chocolate & Wine Tasting
This party can be a true tasting adventure.  The key is to match the nuances of the flavors in the wines and chocolates.  Darker chocolates go better with full-bodied wines, lighter chocolates with lighter wines.  Start with the lighter versions and work up to the deep, dark, and brooding.

Begin with a sip of wine and let it fill your mouth.  Next, bite off a small piece of chocolate and allow it to melt on your tongue.  Taste the wine again and let the flavors meld together.

Dark chocolates (70% to 100% cacao) go well with Merlot, Malbec, Zinfandel, and Syrah.  Pairing the heavy chocolate flavor with full-bodied wine is the key.

Semi sweet chocolates (50% to 69% cacao) pair nicely with Beaujolais, Merlot, and Port.

Milk chocolate is mild and sweet, and an easy match with wine.  Try with Pinot Noir, Riesling, or a dessert wine like a Port or Sherry.

White Chocolate is actually not a chocolate but a confection made up of sugar, milk and cocoa butter.  Regardless, it pairs well with Gewürztraminer, Riesling, or Champagne.

Now, call some friends, grab some food and wine, and kick back this weekend – Stop all of the rushing around for just a while and just enjoy the holidays!

~ Joy


  1. Thank you, Joy, for posting such yummy suggestions ... can't wait to through my next holiday party! Have a happy holiday season, too.
    (South of France)