How event planners can select the best wines for their menu

Things are better in pairs: shoes, trousers, people, food and drink. That’s why it’s important to put the time into pairing your wine with food. As an event organiser you’ll spend so much time choosing a venue and theme that suits your brand or event; matching wines to complement your menu will take a dinner to the next level.
Of course, white wine with fish and red for meat is a standard tone; but when compiling your service, think about the seasonality of the dish, does the locality of the grape match it? Remember, a great ingredient can be overpowered by one glass.

There’s no rule that says you have to stick with red and white at dinner, champagne on arrival and cocktails only for after dinner. Sure, the formula works, but drinks pairings shouldn’t be an afterthought, or ‘dependant on leftover budget’.

It can be a daunting prospect to pick the right tipple, so before an event I offer all clients tasting sessions in our test kitchen. It allows time to delve into the menu, sample and pair dishes with our sommeliers, and see what works or doesn’t – the fun of pairing is in the testing. 

As with all companies, we have an ethos – who we are and what we want to be. Of course these vary from business to business, so where possible, your food and wine choices should also reflect your company or client personality.

Structure your wine pairings as you would your menu and look at the seasonality of ingredients – grapes to cleanse the palate, or that have a technical ability that matches the event.

If your event has a pan-Asian theme for instance, an English sparkling wine would be out of place and take away from the integrity of the cuisine. The delicate fish and raw, vibrant ingredients could be tainted by a strong, full bodied wine, so consider one with more subtle, aromatic notes.

Consider a sweet wine, the high levels of sugar and alcohol create a golden tint and fruity aroma, more akin to a dessert wine, while the natural sweetness will give a slight warmth to the chilled foods. A chilled sweet wine also makes for a great aperitif.

Also consider the type of food service when choosing your beverage; does the event suit a buffet style service or is it a sit down formal affair? It may be a champagne reception by name, but that doesn’t mean that’s all you should offer. Creating cocktails allows for creativity in designing new concoctions, while the variety of cocktail glasses for service can often look more appealing than rows and rows of champagne flutes.

The key thing to remember when pairing food and drink is to mix flavours which complement one another and bring the best elements of each to the fore. Delicate dishes should be harmonised with other delicate flavours; rich meaty dishes work well with a bold wine that can match its bite.

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Written by Tom Gore, Executive Chef at The Brewery

Heavily influenced by his global culinary experiences, from working in kitchens all over the world, Tom’s ethos is to keep the basis of his dishes simple and use classic flavours, to create recipes with unusual combinations to a fine-dining standard.

Bringing his vitality and passion to the kitchen, Tom has pushed the boundaries of clients’ expectations for conferences and events, and working with his brigade of chefs, cater for all in-house events from private parties to award ceremonies and conferences for up to 1,000.

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