In many places around the world, appetizers are considered an essential part of life. Not necessarily just for entertaining guests but as a daily ritual for socializing with family and friends. And of course they are accompanied by refreshing wines.
Spanish tapas, Russian zabuski, Italian antipasti and Mediterranean mezze are as common as the main entree. It was possibly the French who made the appetizer more formal with their hors d’oeuvres and then the English expanded on the formality with passed appetizers on silver platters. American appetizers can fall anywhere in between.
When it comes to pairing wine with appetizers, the most simple and straightforward wines are the best for pairing. White wines are usually a better choice than red because they are generally lighter bodied, lower in alcohol, refreshing, lack harsh tannins and will pair with an array of foods.
My top wines for appetizers are pinot grigio/gris, sparkling wine, gewurztraminer, sauvignon blanc and on occasion, chardonnay. When serving chardonnay, it’s important to stay away from big, oaky, high-alcohol styles that can wreck the whole philosophy of the white wine and appetizer perfection.
If you are including a red wine, keep in mind the same principles of your white choices: stick with lower alcohol, lighter bodied styles and those that are refreshing. My top choices are usually pinot noir and merlot. Both of these grapes can be produced in regions pushing upward to 14.5 percent alcohol levels so be sure to check the labels for lower ranges and those usually grown in cooler regions.
Here are a few friendly matches for recipe planning: salty with champagne; beef with merlot; chicken with unoaked chardonnay; spicy with Riesling; savory with pinot noir; grilled with syrah.
- 2015 Chateau Ste. Michelle Gewurztraminer, Oregon (about $12 retail)
- 2014 Le Grand Pinot Noir, France (about $11 retail)
- 2014 Rudi Wiest Mosel River Riesling, Germany (about $15 retail)
- 2014 Chloe Pinot Noir, California (about $12 retail)
- 2014 Grayson Cellars Pinot Noir, California (about $13 retail)
- 2014 Stellar Organics Merlot, South Africa (about $14 retail)
- NV Pascual Toso Sparkling Wine, Argentina (about $11 retail)
- 2014 Bell Red Blend, California (about $17 retail)
- 2014 Joseph Drouhin Chablis, France (about $27 retail)
- 2014 Chateau Saint-Sulpice, France (about $17 retail)
- 2014 Decoy Chardonnay, California (about $21 retail)
- 2015 Firesteed Riesling, Oregon (about $17)
- 2015 Pierre Sparr Pinot Gris, France (about $20 retail)