Wine and Meal Pairings Have You Puzzled? Our Wine Expert Is Here to Help

Food & Drink
Wedding Reception Meal and Wine Pairing Tips

Photo: Jen Huang

When it comes to weddings, there's one thing you can count on: Nothing gets guests going like good food and drink. It's often what they remember most, actually (that and the music).

To up your reception game, work with the chef at your venue or catering company to create a custom menu that reflects your tastes as a couple. It's likewise important to give your wines a think—in fact, it's becoming the norm to pair specific varietals with personalized dishes, the same way restaurants have done for years.

But assuming you don't have a sommelier on speed-dial, how do you know what works best with steak versus fish? Enter Yoav Gilat, co-founder of Cannonball Wine Company, one of our favorite industry insiders, whose Healdsburg, California-based winemakers turn out some of the most delicious vintages on the market. (Bonus: most retail for less than $20!) Not only do they produce four unique varietals under the Cannonball brand—Cabernet, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc—they also oversee a Proprietary Red and a Rosé under sister brand, Angels & Cowboys (talk about a wine label that will get guests talking at the bar!).

To ensure a standout wine-paired meal, consider these five tips from Gilat:

1. When it comes to general wine selection, know that there will always be some guests who are "red wine drinkers" and others who are "white wine drinkers." It's important to offer flexible varieties to appease both. A Pinot Noir is fruity, higher in acid, and has softer tannins (the astringent component in wine) than a full-bodied red, making it a versatile option that pairs beautifully with poultry, pasta, veggies, and seafood. A red blend is another crowd-pleaser and can usually convert die-hard white drinkers with its fruit-forward taste.

2. California Sauvignon Blanc is a great choice for a versatile white wine. This style of Sauvignon Blanc can stand up to most food pairings: soft cheeses, salads, seafood, poultry, and pasta. It also has broad appeal covers both ends of the spectrum—the Chardonnay lovers will appreciate the ripe fruit notes and richness, while the red wine crowd will gravitate toward the bright acid and complexity.

3. Surprise, Rosé is the most versatile of all! It has the acidity of white wine and the fruity character of red and pairs with most foods. Hence the reason it's one of the fastest growing wine categories—more and more wine lovers are discovering the appeal of this approachable yet sophisticated and affordable choice.

4. When pairing wines for a multi-course meal, it's best to move through a progression, from lighter in body (Rosé, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc) to heavier (Chardonnay, Cabernet, red blend), so that you don't overwhelm guests' palates.

See More: How to Use Your Registry to Fill Your Own Personal Wine Cellar

5. When making selections, also consider the heaviness of the protein served. Dishes with lean meats should be paired with lighter wines. Alternatively, foods with a high fat content (like meats, cheese, and rich sauces) should be served with highly acidic whites (Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay) or tannic red wines (Cabernet), since fats and tannins are a match made in heaven.

6. And of course, if you're doing a buffet style meal, why not channel the same serve-yourself approach and offer one versatile white and red that guests can self-pour? Just place a bottle of each on the table and let them do their thing. The interactive touch will be reminiscent of a restaurant experience, making your reception less big-banquet and more unique and memorable.

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