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Pairing Wine with Food at your Wedding or Event (or not)

Sean Tarallo is the co-owner of Olde Virginia Gourmet & Gifts and Stevenson Ridge’s wine consultant. He also works for the Ridge as one of our banquet captains.

There are no truly “correct” answers when it comes to pairing food with wine. I say this because there are so many factors involved. The most important factor is an individual’s taste buds. Everyone’s are different! What may work for one, might not for another.

The most basic tenet of wine pairings is “Bolder wines with bolder foods, lighter wines with lighter foods,” and it’s a great basic rule to remember because, in most cases, it works.

Another general rule of thumb is don’t pick a wine that will “overpower” the food it is paired with. You do want to taste the food, after all.

But, pairings can also be looked at in different ways. Not just bold, full bodied wines vs. lighter bodied wines, but sweet vs. dry, high acidity vs. low acidity, oak vs. non-oak. The combinations can be a bit intimidating.

Often, people try to “mirror” their pairings. An example of this might be to pair an oak-aged chardonnay with a lobster and cream sauce. Both are opulent, rich, and creamy. Or, a sweet dessert ice wine with a slice of cheesecake. But sometimes, contrast between wine and food brings out the best flavors in both. Think about a red wine like cabernet with chocolate. Or maybe salty, spicy Thai food with a sweet, fruity riesling or moscato.

Rather than continue on with the almost endless number of possible pairings, however, I’d like to talk a bit about how you might apply wine choices to your wedding or special event.

If the focal point of your event is the meal, then by all means, pick out wines that traditionally pair well with the foods you are serving! Including myself, we have a number of folks here at Stevenson Ridge who can help you with that. Our wedding coordinators, chefs, catering manager, and our general manager, Jennifer have a wealth of experience with pairings.

But, how does pairing food and wine relate to a wedding, you ask? The answer to that question is, really, as much or as little as you want. If you are really “into” wine, and it is important that the food you are serving is well paired with wine, then go for it!

But, in most cases, a wedding reception is a big party, and the meal is but a single part of the event. There might be a cocktail hour, toasts, dancing, cake cutting, etc. So, pairing wine with food might not be something that you find all that important, and that’s okay, too.

If that’s the case, then I typically suggest you focus on two things. First, pick at least one wine you like. It is your day, after all. Second, pick wines that a majority of a large gathering of people would like. It’s okay if you don’t know what everyone likes. Choose an assortment of different styles—say, a dry white, a sweet white, and a traditional red. Then there will be at least one wine for most everyone’s taste.

In the end, picking the right wine pairings comes down to tastings. And, when you book a wedding here at Stevenson Ridge, we offer bridal wine tastings just about every month! It’s a great opportunity for our brides and grooms (and maybe a few other people important to you, like parents, or best men, or maids of honor) to come out and taste our wine options before your big day. I’ll be there, along with our staff, to tell you all about the wine, and to help you pick out the perfect wines for your perfect day!