Thank you to Firstleaf for sponsoring this post! Firstleaf is offering a special offer for my subscribers – 6 bottles for $44.95 + 6 months of free shipping. To redeem, click here. And if you’re looking for a holiday gift for a wine lover, check out their gift cards and wine gift boxes! Just be sure to order by December 14 if you want to receive the wine in time for Christmas.
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The holiday season is in full swing, and with that comes one of my favorite things: lots of opportunity for festive food and drink gatherings!
Ever wonder which types of food to pair with which wine? And how to find unique and interesting wine picks without spending hours aimlessly wandering around a wine store? Have no fear, for today’s blog post will include tips for both!
How to find unique wines
Firstleaf is my secret for finding new-to-you (and your guests) wines. Their winemaker experts sample over 10,000 wines each year at vineyards (from 5 continents and 12 countries) and select only the finest bottles to include in their shipments.
And thanks to their advanced quiz and ratings system, they will recommend wines you’ll love with 96% accuracy – pretty amazing! They have over 82 million combinations of boxes possible and 98% of the monthly boxes are completely unique.
Their wine boxes also make great holiday gifts! You can gift a pre-set wine bundle or single bottle of wine handpicked by their experts. With gift boxes of varying sizes and a variety of red, white, and sparkling options to choose from, there’s something available for every budget and palate. (Check out Firstleaf’s gifts page to peruse all the options.)
And if you really want to take your wine selections (whether for yourself, or others) to the next level, have a chat with their wine concierge! Every member gets free, unlimited access to Firstleaf’s wine concierge team, who can answer any questions you have about wine and even help you to find wines that are perfect for specific occasions or meals.
So next time you aren’t sure what to pair with specific appetizers or a main dish, just ask their wine concierge and let them do the work for you!
And in the meantime, here are some tips, plus some recipe ideas for hosting your next gathering.
Wine Pairing Tips
If done well, a pairing will help elevate the flavors of both the dish and the wine. While there are no hard and fast rules and you can certainly get creative (I often do!), understanding some simple basics of wine pairing can be really helpful for picking wines to pair with appetizers and main dishes alike.
Wine Pairings with Appetizers
Wine pairings with appetizers should complement the dish without overpowering it, and typically you’ll want to serve white or sparkling wines with appetizers vs. red wine. Here are some tips.
- Light and Crispy Appetizers: Think delicate bites like hummus dips or variations on bruschetta. Lighter appetizers pair beautifully with crisp, refreshing wines like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.
- Spicy Appetizers: Spicy dishes (like my spicy hummus queso dip, an old fave) pair best with wines that balance acidity and sweetness. Riesling or Gewürztraminer are good choices, as their sweetness counteracts the heat while the acidity cuts through the richness.
- Rich and Savory Appetizers: For richer appetizers like goat cheese crostini or grilled shrimp skewers, opt for fuller-bodied wines with some oak influence, such as Chardonnay or Viognier. If you’re enjoying a charcuterie board, you can also pair it with a sparkling wine (my favorite). The higher acidity typical of sparkling wines will pair really well with the creamy cheese and salty meats!
Main Course Wine Pairing Tips
Whether hosting a gathering or having a simple weeknight meal, wine pairings here should complement the dish’s intensity and complexity.
- Red Meat and Hearty Dishes: For bold flavors like grilled steaks or pork roast, reach for robust red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or Syrah. Their tannins will stand up to the richness of the meat.
- Pasta and Vegetarian Dishes: Pasta dishes with savory sauces (like my Lemon Chicken Pasta with Kale) or vegetarian dishes with earthy flavors (like my Mushroom Quinoa) pair well with medium-bodied red wines like Sangiovese or Zinfandel, or robust white wines like Chenin Blanc.
- Poultry and Fish: Delicate dishes like chicken or salmon call for lighter-bodied red wines or fuller-bodied white wines. Pinot Noir (my fave!), Gamay, or Chardonnay are good choices here. Pictured below is a salmon (instead of chicken) variation of my Harvest Bowl with Sweet Potato – a fall/winter fave.
Firstleaf: Your Ticket to Unique Wine Pairings
Matt and I have loved using Firstleaf over the past few months as our gateway to a world of unique curated wines. Firstleaf has made it easy to explore lesser-known grape varietals and uncover hidden gems from around the globe, and their personalized recommendations and detailed tasting notes make it easy to find wines that perfectly match our meals or occasion.
If you haven’t tried Firstleaf yet, do yourself a favor and give it a shot! For more details about Firstleaf and how it works, check out my full blog review from earlier this fall: Firstleaf Wine Subscription Review. And don’t forget my readers can get 6 bottles for $44.95 + 6 months of free shipping. To redeem, click here.