Few pleasures can top an expertly prepared dish paired with a high-quality wine. The blend of aromas, flavors, and textures can turn a meal from an enjoyable evening into a tasting event that lives long in the memory of your clients.
However, preparing the perfect pairing of wine and food requires a finely tuned palate and an appreciation for the finer things in life. Finding the right blend of flavors for the catered event is an art that requires a lifetime of research and learning.
If you’re new to the sommelier world, consider starting with a few tried and tested pairings from around the world. This will impress your clients and help you build a reputation in the catering industry.
Any sommelier worth their salt understands that regional differences have a profound impact on the flavor of food and wine. A merlot sourced from Bordeaux will taste completely different from a merlot from California. That’s because each region has distinct differences in climate, sunlight, and humidity. Understanding regional differences between wines is key.
The Catersource Conference & Tradeshow, co-located with The Special Event, is heading to Austin February 12-15, 2024. With fresh keynotes, new networking opportunities, eye-popping showcasing events and never-before-seen industry speakers, prepare to be wowed. Learn more
Appellation refers to the geographic area where grapes are grown. Different appellations have different rules governing how wine can be produced. For example, in France, the system of appellations is known as the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée. Understanding how these systems work is key if you’re looking for a wine with particular, regionally defined, qualities.
Your clients will expect you to know about terroir, too. Terroir defines the environmental factors that impact a grape’s growth. Climate, soil quality, rainfall, and topography have a profound impact on the end result of the wine. For example, if you’re looking for a wine with more acidic qualities to pair with a poultry dish, you may want to look for pinot noir grown at higher elevations. The higher elevation will expose the grape to colder nighttime temperatures and result in a more acidic flavor.
When looking for a wine to build a menu around, search for a vintage that has the right amount and quantity of tannins. Tannins vary by region and can greatly alter the overall taste profile. Work with your catering client to figure out their preferences and avoid the temptation to automatically opt for well-aged wines with heavy tannins. Some folks don’t quite have the palate to handle the flavor or may prefer a more subtle experience.
Preparing your palate
Wine and food tasting is a crucial part of the pairing process. As a caterer, you need to get hands-on experience with the wine and the dish you intend to serve or you may find that your wine and food pairing ends up in disarray.
When tasting wines, prepare by organizing your notes and cleansing your palate. You’ll need to pay close attention to the appearance, flavor, aroma, and texture of the wine if you want to find the right partner for your main dish.
Take good care of your oral health in preparation for a wine and food tasting. Your tongue is important for your overall health and contains 2,000-4,000 taste buds that detect both smell and flavor. In addition to regular brushing, avoid using tobacco products and limit the amount of sugary food you eat. This preserves your taste buds and ensures that other flavors aren’t interfering with the experience.
When preparing for your client’s wine sampling appointment, keep whites and roses between 50 and 55 degrees and reds between 62 and 68 degrees. Don’t try to taste the wine in a room like the kitchen, where other smells are likely to interfere. When it’s time to taste, instruct your clients to take small sips to assess body, sweetness, tannins, and bitterness, so they can fully evaluate and appreciate the flavor profile.
Pairing wine with food is an art that can take your catering service to the next level. Elevate your catering service by staying up to date with seasonal wine trends and preparing your palate properly. Work with your client to assess their preferences and encourage them to consider a mild tannin level if their palette isn’t ready for the intensity of well-aged wines.