When entertaining during the holidays, we have a wonderful variety of potential appetizers from which to choose. Traditional favorites, authentic ethnic, upscale, contemporary America—the possibilities are practically endless.
Selecting the right wine to pair can be a source of angst. There are as many varietals as there are appetizers. And the right selection means the difference between an okay experience, and a food and beverage marriage made in heaven.
This season, we have award-winning Sommelier, Derrick C. Westbrook giving us tips for just wine pairings with some of his favorite appetizers. With more than ten years of experience, he knows what he’s talking about. Currently Service Manager and Sommelier for Chicago hotspot Bibliophile and consultant for wine shop Madison Vine Wines, Westbrook was recently recognized by “Wine Enthusiast” magazine as a 40 Under 40 Tastemaker. You’re in good hands! – Editor
Pairing Appetizers with Wine
Written by Derrick C. Westbrook.
Some of my favorite appetizers include deviled eggs, oysters and stuffed mushrooms, all of which come with a unique difficulty when pairing with wine.
Most sommeliers would agree that oysters are a classic appetizer for pairing with wine. Typically, oysters are paired with Muscadet from the Loire Valley of France. Oysters have a certain salinity, and the Muscadet does a fantastic job at bringing out the richness in this dish. However when it comes to pairings, I actually like to go in a different direction!
I am a huge fan of grape Chenin Blanc, especially when grown in the Loire Valley. Chenin Blanc can be super bright with tons of citrus notes. Those profiles do an excellent job of acting like a spritz of lemon. Plus if you’re feeling fancy, you can opt for a Chenin Blanc from the Savennières region. For those who are on a budget, there’s always a yummy and affordable Vouvray, which you can easily find at your local wine shop.
Bring On The Eggs!
I have a great affinity for eggs of all types. As a broke college student, eggs were one of the cheapest ways to add protein to a meal and could be cooked in so many ways! As an adult with a little bit more disposable income, I still love eggs and deviled eggs are at the top of the list when it comes to appetizers. However, they are a pain to pair. Eggs are actually a sommelier’s nightmare!
The flavor of eggs are so unique and yet so malleable that finding the right, go-to wine is more than just a labor of love. But, I think I have cracked the code! A great equalizer for deviled eggs, is the heavenly concoction of mayo, mustard and pickled relish. The acidity that comes from the sweet relish and the richness of the mayo beg for Rosè. Yep, I said it, Rosè. Rosè makes a great pairing, especially Spanish Rosès made from the Garnacha grape varietal. It has enough weight to stand up to eggs, while complimenting the varied notes found in ingredients like mayo, mustard and relish. Most importantly, this pairing gives you an excuse to drink Rosè at any time of year (not just during the summer!)
Stuff Mushroom Success
Probably one of the only other items I like more than eggs are mushrooms. When pairing stuffed mushrooms, it is almost more important to know the ingredients in the mushrooms, than it is to think of the mushroom itself. However, I like catch-all pairings for appetizers that can have many variations, and so for stuffed mushrooms, I choose Zweigelt from Austria. It has a little earth and funk, much like your favorite fungus (mushrooms) whilst being just bright and light enough to not drown out the course. Now my mouth is watering, so I’m going to go find some yummy appetizers and wine!