A wine tasting party with friends is a delightful way to spend an evening. Add in some food and you've got a very memorable get-together.Pair those two parts perfectly, and you have one heck of a mouthwatering shindig.
Potlucks may be viewed by many as an almost passé form of entertaining, but it’s not the concept itself that’s as worn out as mullets and parachute pants, it’s the menu. That’s why we’re offering an update – or upgrade, if you will – to a more modern menu, featuring dishes from around the world and suggestions for the perfect wines with which to pair them. Assign each guest a course and cuisine (take-out is perfect way to squeeze in a weeknight dinner with friends), and wait for the culinary magic to unfold.
There is something irresistible about Thai food’s signature combination of sweet, sour, salty and spicy, but it’s that very complexity that throws a wrench in the works when you’re trying to pick out a complementary bottle of wine. The key is to remember that heat likes sweet, but drink a tannic wine alongside food with spice and it will be anything but nice. You can experiment with lighter reds like Pinot Noir or a good Beaujolais, but we prefer a nice, off-dry white.
- Green Papaya Salad; Arabako Txakolina 2013 Xarmant, Arabako Txakolina, $17 – This light, low-alcohol wine from the Basque region is a relative newcomer to the commercial scene, but its bracing acidity, slight effervescence, bright citrus notes and mineral-driven finish make it a lovely match for this fresh yet fiery appetizer.
- Classic Pad Thai; Domaine Weinbach 2011 Schlossberg Grand Cru Riesling, $39 – As classic as the dish you’ll be pairing it with, this intensely fruity Riesling has the heft to hold its own against green onion, crushed peanuts, and bean sprouts, and it has just enough sweetness to tame the noodle’s heat.
- Margherita Pizza; Torraccia di Presura 2011 Il Tarocco Chianti Classico, $9.99 – It’s hard to believe this Trader Joe’s exclusive is as cheap as it is, especially when you happily slurp it up alongside a simple pizza redolent with tons of fresh mozzarella, basil leaves, and a snappy tomato sauce.
- Bistecca Alla Fiorentina; Tenuta dell’Ornellaia 2011 Le Serre Nuove, $65 – Steak is at its finest in Tuscany, where the locals rub their meat with garlic and rosemary, drizzle it with olive oil and fresh lemon juice, and then quickly char each side. Wash down your beefy goodness with this baby brother of a legendary Super Tuscan, and you’ll be blown away by the deft balance of licorice, tobacco, mocha, herbs, and enough blackberry and dried cherry to make your mouth quiver in delight.
- Grilled Snapper With Fennel and Olives; Domaine Sigalas 2013 “Aa” Assyrtiko/Athiri, $20 – Whole grilled fish stuffed with anisey fennel and a briny handful of unctuous black olives conjures up the feeling of seaside dining in Santorini, and this Assyrtiko/Athiri does the exact same thing. You can almost taste the salty sea air and minerality from the island’s volcanic soil, and the clean lemon notes match perfectly with the soft, flaky flesh of the snapper.
- Marinated Lamb Kabobs With Tzatziki; Hermes Retsina, NV, $9.99 – Retsina, the traditional Greek white wine infused with pine resin, can be a daunting addition to your potluck spread, but the crisp, herbal essence (very Pine Sol – but in a good way) is beyond intriguing, and it cuts through the fatty lamb with ease. It’s an acquired taste, for sure, but well worth trying – especially with a group of equally adventurous friends.
- Ceviche; Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava, $8.99 – Ceviche is delicate and highly acidic, so it requires a wine with a light touch. The soft bubbles and clean finish of this Cava are absolutely smile-inducing, and the touch of richness on the finish keeps the pairing from being too angular.
- Taco Bar With Black Beans, Chicken Mole, and Carnitas; Bodegas Volver 2011 La Mancha Single Vineyard Tempranillo, $16.99 – Integrated tannins tempered by a burst of refreshing acidity make this Tempranillo a standout for the price point, and so long as your meat is spiced with plenty of chili powder and cumin, the smoky flavors will mingle with the wine nicely.