The Sip

Wow your Party Guests with these 4 Easy Food and Wine Pairing Tips

The SipPairing wine with food is one of the joys in life. I love cooking a good meal and picking a delicious wine to go with it. With holiday parties and family gatherings in full swing, impress your guests with a delicious meal and perfect wine pairings.

There are certain general rules to follow, but sometimes, when you defy those rules and go with what you love, you’ll make a match that is surprisingly delicious.

General rules for pairing food and wine:

1. Acid needs acid.

Any food with a high acid level needs a high-acid wine to stand up to it. Think of a red-sauce pasta dish (tomatoes are high in acid) tasting great with a high-acid sangiovese.

2. Tannins need fat.

Tannins are the astringent component in red wine that gives it structure. Tannins also leave that drying, puckering feeling in your mouth after you finish a drink of wine. Cabernet sauvignons are known for having high tannins, and pairing them with high-fat foods like steak helps smooth out the tannins, resulting in a smoother mouthfeel.

3. Choose from the same region.

Wines and foods produced in the same region are generally great together. A fantastic regional paring to put on your must-try list is Sancerre with a goat cheese from the same area. Sancerre is a small wine district in central France famous for its crisp, aromatic white wines made from sauvignon blanc. It is also known for its high-quality goat cheeses, which are an excellent match for the local wine. To understand how great wine and food from the same area can be, try this match.

4. Wine should be sweeter than food.

If you don’t follow this rule, your wine will taste bitter and tart, and you will never want to drink a chardonnay with chocolate cake again — please don’t try that at home.

If all else fails, just drink what you like. Open a bottle you like, share with people you love, and you can’t go wrong.

Some pairings just defy the odds and all else goes out the window except the “drink what you like” rule. I happen to love sausage and fennel risotto. It’s easy to make, doesn’t take too long and impresses dinner guests.

The recipe calls for half-cup dry, white wine, so I chose Bainbridge Vineyards’ 2013 Madeleine Angevine for three reasons: It’s delicious, it’s dry and I don’t cook with anything I won’t drink. This dry, crisp wine typically tastes great with oysters and lighter seafood dishes, but it tasted great with this risotto.

This food-and-wine match doesn’t follow any of the typical pairing rules except “drink what you like.” I included the Madeleine Angevine in this risotto because I like both and thought the delicate wine might pair nicely with this not-too-rich dish. Sometimes, it just works — and this time, it did.

If planning a multicourse meal or party and serving more than one wine, start with lighter-bodied, white wines first and end with full-bodied reds or sweet dessert wines. Sparkling wines like Champagne (sparkling wine from France), prosecco (sparkling wine from Italy) and cava (sparkling wine from Spain) are great appetizer wines that always add a festive feel to parties. For an instant party starter, drop a couple of fresh cranberries or strawberries in the bottom of a Champagne flute, fill with sparkling wine and set out on a tray by the door for guests to grab on their way in.

Cheers to a wonderful holiday season, made even better with family, friends and delicious wines!

I’d love to hear what wine you used in the risotto recipe and how it turned out. I can be found on Facebook or Instagram @thesocialsip.

Sausage & Fennel Risotto

Serves Six

Pair this meal with a dry, crisp white wine like the, 2013 Madeleine Angevine from Bainbridge Vineyards


  • 5 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (10 oz)
  • pinch of saffron threads
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese
  • 1 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbs chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1lb sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced


In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a simmer, keep warm. In a large saucepan heat the olive oil. Add the onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderate heat, stirring until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and cook for 1 minute, stirring to thoroughly coat.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook crumbled sausage in 1 Tbs olive oil over high heat until browned. Add fennel, cook until softened, 8 minutes. Crumble the saffron into the wine and add it into the rice. Cook, stirring until the wine is absorbed. Add 1 cup of the warm broth and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly until nearly absorbed. Continue adding the stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly, until it is nearly absorbed between additions. The risotto is done when the rice is al dente and suspended in a thick, creamy sauce, about 20 minutes total. Add the sausage and fennel to the risotto, stir in the cheese, butter and parsley and serve immediately.

Recipe Courtesy of The Social Sip: Social Media Marketing for Wineries