When I travel, I find myself most relaxed by the water, whether it’s a beach, a lake, or a river running through a city. The fresh air, open views, and sounds of moving water all combine to create a serene mood.
Good food and wine also encourage slowing down the day and, inspired by my travels, I try to recreate a feeling of ease by hosting dinner parties at home. My style is casual and intimate—it’s all about bringing together a small group of great friends, cooking some comfort food, and popping open many bottles of wine. Often the talk turns to travel, as we share stories from recent trips and swap recommendations for where to head next.
One of the places on my radar is New Zealand, especially the Marlborough region for its coastal waterways and wineries like Cloudy Bay. I recently caught up with Cloudy Bay’s Korinne Munson, who shared some advice on how best to pair food and wine.
Whatever destination and cuisine you’re craving, follow these seven tips for your next your dinner party.
1. Everyone knows they should chill their white wine, but it’s also a good idea for red wine. Slightly chill the red wine for five minutes before serving so that it tastes especially bright and fresh when your guests first taste it.
2. A 4-ounce pour is a good standard size for your guests throughout the evening.
3. The wine you serve should build in intensity, moving in a progression of oakiness and tannins throughout the night. In general, food and wine pairings should go from white to red, dry to sweet.
4. White wines are a great start to the evening as your guests first arrive. Crisp whites like Cloudy Bay’s citrusy Sauvignon Blanc pair well with most appetizer courses, salads, and vegetables, as well as certain entrees such as seafood or anything with a fatty, creamy sauce.
5. Red wines are the perfect complement for rich entrees and set the tone for the second half of the evening. The intensity of red wines like Cloudy Bay’s Pinot Noir—with its hints of fresh cherry—pairs effortlessly with chicken, pork, game and seafood.
6. Surprise your guests with a mini tasting by serving each person two half-glasses side-by-side along with their entrees. Choose the same grapes or region from the same year so guests can compare and contrast the flavors of the wine with their food. They can experience the differences in the climate and soil and compare, for instance, and decide for themselves which wine they enjoy prefer. I found, for one, that Cloudy Bay’s Pinot Noir hailing from Marlborough is brighter than its Te Wahi Pinot Noir cultivated in New Zealand’s Otago region.
7. Red wines go nicely with desserts that are not too sweet and taste especially delicious paired with bitter chocolate. For example, a darker red wine like Cloudy Bay’s brooding, plummy Te Wahi would go perfectly with a flourless chocolate cake.