Guide to wine pairing for buffets and hors d’oeuvres.
You’re hosting a buffet-style dinner party at your house, and you want to have just the right wines on hand to pair with your splendid array of hors d’oeuvres and dishes. But with such a varied mix, how do you know which wine is right?
There are two things to consider when choosing wine to serve at a buffet dinner gathering.
The first is price. Unless your gathering is a very small, intimate affair, you will want to choose reasonably priced, good quality wines that can serve many on a reasonable party budget. High quality boutique wines are certainly nice, but sizable dinner parties tend to go long and draw many, and after a while, the crowd cares less and less about a wine‘s nose and finish. For your buffet dinner party, you need a wine that can go the distance without running short. Choose from among your favorite, more common yet good tasting wines.
The second consideration is varietal, and this is where it gets difficult. Buffets are typically less formal meals. There is no one predominant flavor. Guests may toggle between a chip and dip bowl, seafood platter, beef, poultry, or vegetarian fare.
While you may choose to offer two or three wine varieties, your choices should be versatile as well. Avoid wines with a very heavy body (choose light or medium bodied wines instead). Choose wines that are well balanced, without one very dominating flavor. Avoid overly sweet, dessert wines as well; they tend to close the palate and do not encourage feasting. A wine with a good amount of acidity, on the other hand, enhances the flavor of foods, and invites guests to enjoy more of your spread.
So what varieties of wine are versatile? In general, something with a middle ground. This includes most Roses and Zinfandels. With properties straddling the line between reds and whites, Roses and Zinfandels are good choices to offer when you are not quite sure what you will be eating. You will most certainly want to include a Rose or Zinfandel in your buffet dinner party wine choices, and if you choose only one wine variety, make it one of these.
There are other wine options that pair nicely with buffets; white somewhat more so than red varieties. Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling are popular white wines that are versatile and pair very easily with many dishes, but also stand well alone, making them a nice option for your guests to continue to enjoy when they’ve had their fill at the food table. Similarly, a German variety, Gewurztraminer, can be sipped and enjoyed; foods that have some spice to them are nicely enhanced by the mildly spicy tones of Gewurztraminer.
For the red wine drinkers at your buffet dinner party, consider a Beaujolais, Pinot Noir, or Merlot. These are red wine varieties that are well known among wine aficionados, and as such, will be recognized and enjoyed. Red wines such as these are traditionally well known for pairing with beef and red meat flavors, but will balance nicely with a variety of foods, including chocolate and dessert dishes.
Of course you wouldn’t want to forget the Champagne for your celebration either, but don’t feel that you have to wait until the party’s end to serve it. Champagne is a highly versatile wine that can move freely among a number of dishes, including dessert. It is the one absolute wine recommended for serving with hors d’oeuvres by Windows on the World Complete Wine Course author Kevin Zraly (2006, Sterling Publishing, Co., NY). You will do your guests well by offering a good tasting Champagne, not to mention the life it will bring to your party.
As in all of wine and food pairing, go with what you know and drink what you like. Wine is meant to be savored and enjoyed. Wine is meant as a source of pleasure, not of frustration, and you should not allow choosing a wine for your buffet dinner party to become one. Taking a moment to choose one or two reliable, versatile wine varieties that you know and like is sure to make your party a success.