The time between October and December is the busiest party season of the year, and let’s be honest: Many of those drop-ins, potlucks, and holiday open houses are really just wine parties in disguise. You know you’ll need two things—party food, and wine to serve with said party food.
Cheese with wine has become cliche—and not even a good one. (Of course, there are rare exceptions, like manchego and brie.) But cheese can actually fight the tannins and acidity in wine. What about classic party foods? Can you pair guacamole with wine? Or find a great match for something as simple as potato chips? We asked some local experts to share their favorite pairings.
Amanda Britton of Lincoln Street Kitchen & Cocktails may be best known for her prowess with a cocktail shaker, but she knows her way around a wine bottle, too. Her go-to pairings for party foods are rosé with anything spicy, like buffalo wings; and a simple bottle of bubbly (she likes Simonet Blanc de Blancs Brut) for rich bites, like baked crab dip.
Andrew King, owner of The Butler’s Pantry, serves his Country Ham Puffs with a mix of tawny port and lemonade. Port pairs well with salty foods like ham, and the mixture combines lemonade’s acidity with the wine’s nutty sweetness.
At The Goodyear House, chef and owner Chris Coleman tops his Devilish Toast with deviled eggs, diced pickles, and Calabrian chili peppers and serves it with a sparkling rosé. He says rosés can stand up to the creaminess of the toppings, and they’re free of tannins that clash with eggs.
Certified Wine Educator Sara Guterbock loves potato chips with a dry sparkling wine, whether it’s an expensive Champagne or a more affordable prosecco or cava. Her favorite party wines are Spanish cava, which tends to be more elegant and a little drier than prosecco, and a juicy grenache-based red blend.
If you add relish to this Southern classic, you boost the acidity, Guterbock says. Acid in wine can mitigate acidity in food, so she serves it with a bright New Zealand sauvignon blanc. For simpler, mustardy deviled eggs, a sparkling rosé can cut through the creamy richness.
Baked Chicken Wings
Sweetness and spice can be enemies, but spicy wings can handle a big red like malbec. Sweetness can shut it down, so for teriyaki wings, go with a sweeter white like a German Gewürztraminer or riesling.
Baked Crab Dip
A sparkling wine, like a Spanish cava or a sparkling rosé, will cut through the fat of the mayonnaise-and-cheese base. A buttery, oaky chardonnay can work with the browned top of a baked dip. Or reach for a classic with seafood, a bright albariño, to cleanse your palate.
Grape Jelly Meatballs
These simple meatballs in a sweet-hot sauce deserve a comeback. Pair them with a grenache-based Côtes du Rhône. It’s affordable, and the juicy red flavor will love the sweet grape jelly.
It’s both spicy and creamy, with the salty crunch of tortilla chips. Gewürztraminer is floral with a little acidity that can temper the heat with a soft texture to match the creaminess. It’s also aromatic enough to handle strong herbs like cilantro.
Bacon-Wrapped, Almond-Stuffed Dates
Bacon always couples well with the spiciness of shiraz. But for this meaty Spanish appetizer, go with a classic Spanish tempranillo. It can handle the saltiness of the bacon and sweet chewiness of the dates.
Pear and Almond Puff Pastry Tart
Ashley Bivens-Boyd, pastry expert and owner of 300 East, serves this simple dish with a sweet dessert wine. Either a Sauternes or a white muscat will do magical things with the almond flavors.
Courtesy of Andrew King, The Butler’s Pantry
The sweet/salty/acidic filling goes perfectly with the crunchy puff pastry. The recipe can be doubled or tripled, depending on how many servings you need. The pastry expands, so the baked puffs are large enough to be a serving.
For 6 large puffs:
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed if frozen
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons pepper jelly
6 thin slices country ham
1½ cups shredded Asiago cheese
Courtesy of Andrew King, The Butler’s Pantry
Tawny Port (it doesn’t need to be an expensive one)
Courtesy of Chris Coleman, The Goodyear House
Coleman uses a couple of tricks to create an ultra-smooth and flavorful filling, topped with zippy garnish of diced pickle and red Calabrian peppers. For testing, we found Divina chopped Calabrian peppers at Publix.
12 eggs, hard-boiled and peeled (see note)
½ cup mayonnaise (Coleman recommends Kewpie, we like Duke’s)
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
Salt to taste
1 to 2 teaspoons water
Note: Cover the eggs with cold water, bring to a boil, cover, and remove from heat. Let stand 17 to 18 minutes, then place in ice water to cool before peeling. Or place 1 cup water in an Instant Pot fitted with a trivet. Place the eggs in the pot, seal and cook 5 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes, then vent the steam and place the eggs in a bowl of ice water for 5 minutes before removing the shells.
Courtesy of Ashley Bivens Boyd, 300 East
1 package puff pastry, thawed but still refrigerator-cold
⅔ cup granulated sugar, plus 1/4 cup for finishing tart
10 tablespoons butter, softened
1¼ cups almond flour (Almond flour is available in most supermarkets. Bob’s Red Mill is a common brand.)
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
¼ teaspoon almond extract
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
⅓ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
6 firm Bosc, D’Anjou or Bartlett pears
Juice from 2 lemons
¾ cup pear, apple or apricot jelly or preserves
¼ cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
Courtesy of Kathleen Purvis
Nonstick cooking spray or butter for baking dish
1 teaspoon dry mustard
¾ teaspoon Old Bay
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon A-1 Steak Sauce
2 teaspoons half and half
Zest and juice of 1 large lemon (about 2 tablespoons juice)
¾ cup grated Parmesan, divided
8 ounces crabmeat, preferably lump
⅓ cup crushed Ritz crackers (about 10 crackers)
Crackers for serving
Adapted from allrecipes.com
Typically served in a chafing dish or from a slow cooker, this one has become a party classic. When you first mix up the sauce, it won’t wow you. But let the meatballs simmer in the sauce for several hours and you’ll get it: As the sauce thickens, the flavors meld, becoming irresistibly sweet and rich. Use small cocktail-size frozen meatballs, not the large Italian-style ones.
1 (30- to 32-ounce) jar grape jelly
2 (12-ounce) bottles Heinz chili sauce
1 (5- to 6-pound) bag frozen cocktail-size meatballs
Alternate methods: Place the meatballs and sauce in a large Dutch oven and bake at 325 degrees for 3 hours. Remove the lid in the final hour to let the sauce thicken. Or you can simmer it all slowly in a large pot on the stove; leave the lid off and simmer slowly, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 hours, until thickened. Serve the meatballs and sauce in a chafing dish with cocktail picks.
1 (12-ounce) container pitted Medjool dates
2 to 3 cups salted roasted almonds
1 to 2 pounds regular bacon (not thick), each strip cut in half