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Nov 12, 2013 11:21 AM

Wine suggestions for this meal

We're having a dinner party (6 people, but only 4 will have wine) on Saturday, and neither of us are all that great at wine pairing. I would appreciate knowing what types of wine to serve. Here's our menu, with comments just below it:

-- Parmesan-rosemary toasted almonds
-- "Nyons Olive Cake" (a small, savory quickbread loaf) served w/Herbes de Provence Chevre

-- Whole roasted chicken w/shallot & white wine pan sauce

-- A savory bread pudding (made w/ Parmigiano, Emmenthaler and Mascarpone, wild mushrooms, and black truffles) baked and served in a whole pumpkin

-- Grilled leeks brushed w/a light, simple Dijon vinaigrette

Tarte Tatin with whipped creme fraiche

My husband and I are not fans of Chardonnay: we tend to like white wines that are on the sweeter side (especially me), such as Reisling. However, the author of the bread pudding recipe recommends "a cool, flinty dry white wine." Problem is, I don't necessarily know what wine would fit that description! (But I know it's not usually Reisling. Should we serve Sauvignon Blanc? Pinot Gris? ...?) Also, we do want to have a red (and maybe even a blush) available, too. What red goes with chicken? BTW, the truffle flavor in the bread pudding is fairly subtle, in case that makes a difference.

We usually select wines that are approximately under $25 or so.

We're not asking because we're concerned about propriety ("white w/chicken, red w/ beef" etc); we just want to enhance the food with the best wine choice that we can manage.

Thanks very much.

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  1. I'm going to suggest something more off the wall for new wine drinkers and suggest a white Cotes du Rhone, an Albarino from Spain, or a Gavi from Italy. You could just as easily go with a Sauvignon Blanc but I find those kind of boring.

    As to a red wine, roast chicken goes really well with a Right Bank Bordeaux or a Cotes du Rhone. For Cotes du Rhones, red or white, M. Chapoutier is a good bet for an affordable and very drinkable one.

    Don't be intimidated by Bordeaux, there is a sea of very drinkable, easily affordable Bordeaux out there. Look for something from Puisseguin St.-Emilion instead of looking at the more classic appellations. I really like the 2010 Chateau des Laurets that is very drinkable right now and within your price range. They made a lot of it so you might be able to find it.

    1. With the almonds and cake, I'd give serious thought to serving something like an aged White Porto -- from Churchill's, Niepoort, or Barros. (Avoid Fonseca's, and several others -- too dry.)

      For the white, the CdR Blanc is an inspired choice with the chicken. I'd do that, *or* something like an Alsatian Riesling or Pinot Gris (***not*** an Italian Pinot Grigio!). For a red, I'd opt for a Cru de Beaujolais -- like a Fleurie or JuliƩnas -- or a top-notch Beaujolais-Villages.

      1. Hmmm... interesting and somewhat challenging menu. Not sure how many wines you want to serve...

        Parm-rosemary almonds: Moscato d'Asti prolly my fave, followed by chardonnay

        Nyons Olive Cake w/ herbed chevre: I'm feeling chardonnay most for this....

        For both of the above you could do a 100% chardonnay champagne, very nice...

        Chicken: Chardonnay or riesling in whites are my faves. If you want a red, go pinot.

        Savory bread pudding. This is a wine challenge due to the clash between matches for parmesan and emmethal. Riesling and gewurztraminer really hit the emmeal, but neither matches Parmesan. Richer reds are mostly right for parmesan (cab, zin, syrah, rioja, nebbiolo), but none of them match emmental.... Mushroom & truffle elements I really like nebbiolo there... Pumpkin is kind of an outlier, not to mention mascarpone... this dish is really busy and I don't think any particular wine is going to match up great with it.

        Grilled leeks are very wine-versatile, but a chardonnay or other dry white is probably best, kabinett riesling also nice...

        SOOOOO... Overall for the Mains I would try to match the chicken and leeks and there Chardonnay and/or riesling are the standout matches IMO, though neither is particularly interesting with the bread pudding as currently composed....

        DESSERT: Considering an awesome match for both the apple and caramel notes, hands down I like Sauternes or a dessert Muscat here (or the D'Asti for that matter).

        So, to pick 3 wines, overall I might go a 100% chardonnay champagne with the apps, kabinett riesling with the mains (you could bring the champage forward for the mains too), and sauternes for the dessert.

        Please report back.

        1. I would choose a sparkling wint for the appys. Don't know what your budget is, but if you don't want to spend the $$ on Champagne, a Cremant would be lovely. Although I enjoy cavas a lot, I hesitate to suggest them because there are a couple of AWFUL ones that are almost ubiquitous. So I'd stick with French... or Gruet from New Mexico.

          For the roast chicken, I also like Right Bank Bordeaux, but somehow that doesn't sound good with the sides you've planned. I'd prefer a Bourgogne Rouge. (No, not pinot noir from US). Again the level of wine can fit your budget. Roast chicken is often what I choose to serve when I want to feature a special wine.

          For dessert: omigosh, the last time I served Tarte Tatin I poured the ethereally lovely "Deborah" from Justin Winery in Paso Robles. It's hard to find outside of the area, but it was just perfect.

          1. "a cool, flinty dry white wine" say Greuner Veltliner to me.

            9 Replies
            1. re: WNYamateur

              Gruner Veltliner was my first idea for the first course also. Then I re-read pindert's preference for sweetness, and thought s/he might not enjoy wines that are "cool, flinty dry," and so I thought some other ideas work a bit better.

              I'd love to see pindert try wines that have beautiful and expressive fruit, so that the wine tastes sweet but isn't sweet per se. So, for the first course, Gavi (the cortese grape) would work, and possibly even a sherry with a touch of sweetness. I would consult with a good wine store and knowledgeable clerk on this. Explain the sweetness issue. Other possibilities: Friulano, Erbaluce, Arneis, Pinot Gris from Oregon/Washington.

              For the main course, I'd a white wine with a bit more intensity to match the intensity of the flavors of the food seems in order. I love the idea of a Roussanne or Marsanne (or a blend of the two) with this. I love the Copain (James Berry Vineyard) and Qupe and Zaca Mesa for this.

              Another wonderful possibility is a good white Bordeaux like the Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc, one of my favorites, and not too pricey.The grapes in white Bordeaux are not chardonnay, since you've said you don't care for it, but Semillion and Sauvignon Blanc. Semillion is a grape with a good deal of richness and smoothness; you might like it.

              By the way, you could keep the white wine from the first course on the table for the second course, just to see how well it went with the food also. Do you know the trick of taking a bite of food and enjoying it, and while you still have the food in our mouth, adding a sip of wine to see how they meld? That's the real key to evaluating a pairing.

              I'd serve both red and white with the chicken, but not a heavy red. Something like a Beaujolais Villages, a Pinot Noir from Oregon, a Grenache/Cinsault blend, a Ribero del Duero, something like that. Once again, work with your wine store clerk. And find out if your guests even drink wine.

              Tarte Tatin always says Sauternes to me, but other possibilities are the Navarro Late Harvest Cluster Select (both Riesling and Gewurtztraminer), Dolce, Topaz, even Picolit from Italy. Find a nice half-bottle that's ready to drink (not too young -- you want those honeyed exotic/apricot fruit flavors), and pour very small pours, about 3 ounces each for the four wine drinkers. A little goes a long way. You can, of course, also buy a full-sized bottle (750 ml) and pour slightly more in the glass and enjoy the remainder in the next few days after your party.

              BTW, I love your menu choices. Looks to be a wonderful meal.

              1. re: maria lorraine

                Maria, I take it you haven't bought Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc in recent vintages. The 2009 & 2010 were $100. The 2011 might be out but has to be about $90. They cranked their price up after 2003. The 2003 might be around at $60 but it's kind of flabby. Unfortunately Pape Clement Blanc has cranked up the pricing even worse.

                1. re: john gonzales

                  It's more than I thought, you're right. I'm seeing the 2000 for $60 at K&L, but the other vintages are $90.


                  If that's too high for pindert, then the Roussanne or Marsanne would be rich, opulent and with fruit sweetness.

                  Pindert, where are you located?

                  1. re: maria lorraine

                    I think your original suggestion of a white bourdeaux was an excellent one. Smith Haut Lafitte is very pricey, but its still possible to find a very good Bourdeax Blanc for under $30. I'd recommend Clos Floridene which I've purchased in the $20-25 from K&L in the past. One thing I like about the idea of a Bourdeaux Blanc is that I'm assuming that the pan sauce will be made with a Sauvignan Blanc. Serving a more elegant version of the wine you are cooking with just makes sense to me.

                    The wine nerd in me would want to pair the main course with a Savignan from the Jura region. I think it could be a pairing that would really work with both the chicken and the bread pudding and has the potential for being a really revelatory wine. That said, it would be a risky choice which some might just find strange and off-putting. A white bordeaux is probably the best choice.

                  2. re: maria lorraine

                    Maria, as much as I respect your expertise, and as much as I like Roussanne/Marsanne whites (there's a good one here for just $13 that I serve with paella), I just would not put one alongside roast chicken which IMO is not intensely flavored. To me these are full-flavored whites like Chardonnay.

                    For the same reason I would not choose an Oregon Pinot or a Ribero del Duero, also favorites of mine.

                    1. re: collioure

                      Bear in mind, I'm pairing to the intensity of the course in total, which includes a savory bread pudding with Parmigiano, Emmenthaler and Mascarpone, wild mushrooms, and black truffles, baked and served in a whole pumpkin, and leeks,as well as roast chicken.

                      The bread pudding kicks up the intensity quite a bit, which is why I feel Roussanne or Marsanne (particularly) works well.

                      I have Roussanne and roast chicken together frequently and love the flavor combination. Though they've been Roussanne and Marsanne from California.

                      Beaujolais Villages, Ribero and (non-reserve) Oregon Pinot Noir are red wine suggestions. All are in a lighter weight to pair with chicken, parm, wild mushrooms, truffles and pumpkin. I've found the Oregon non-reserve Pinots to be a good deal lighter in weight than the reserves, and that's the reason for the suggestion. To me, both the flavor combo and the wine's mid-range pair extremely well. Though I'd probably go with a Beaujolais Villages. But Pindert is in Washington State, and Oregon is next door, so...

                      1. re: maria lorraine

                        Thank you. I respect your opinion.

                        Maybe we come from two different schools and yours is more prevalent, preferring more intense wines. Chez-moi I don't let the wine be the sauce very often.

                        Here you match to the bread pudding, and I match primarily to the chicken with an adjustment for the bread pudding.

                        1. re: collioure

                          Again, I'm matching wine to the entire course.

                          My primary rec is for a rich opulent white to match both the chicken and bread pudding together. (By "rich," I do not mean malolactic or oily.)

                          The intensity of the white wine is important to be able to pair with the parm, wild mushrooms and truffles.

                          The course tips to white wine over red, IMO, especially with the addition of leeks. But Pindert wishes to include a red also for that course, hence my recs for lighter reds but ones with enough substance to take on parm, wild mushrooms and truffles.

                          The entire meal sounds absolutely delicious to me, and full of wonderful fall flavors that I love and enjoy frequently.