Snacks That Go Well With Wine

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The combination of good friends and good wine is a sure-fire recipe for a pleasurable evening, but a few added touches can make it even more enjoyable. One of the most important is a supply of suitable snacks. A well-chosen assortment of finger foods can complement and enhance the wines, bringing out their character admirably. The food also serves to slow the wine's progress from glass to brain, reducing the likelihood of anyone having that one glass too many.

Woman pours some wine at a party
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The first thing to think of is a neutral nibble to serve as a palate cleanser between sips. These should be very simple and plain. Good white bread -- a baguette or ciabatta, for example -- is ideal in its neutrality. Plain crackers, not too rich, are another fine choice. Like the bread, they'll act as a sponge to clear wine from your guests' palates between sips. Crisp grissini, toasted pita wedges or even lightly salted pretzel sticks can serve the same purpose.

Pretzels and crackers
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Things You'll Need

  • Bread
  • Plain crackers
  • Grissini
  • Pita wedges
  • Pretzel sticks

Aside from your palate cleansers, a few crisp, savory, salty snacks are also a good choice. Buttery, homemade cheese crackers go well with red wines, sweet wines and most dessert wines. Alternatively, layer puff pastry with anchovy paste or sharp cheeses; then cut the dough into straw-sized strips. Twist them and bake them until crisp in a hot oven; then serve them with your wine. For an unusual alternative, slice garlic bread into finger-thick strips and bake them crouton-crisp in a slow oven.

Garlic and herb roll
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Things You'll Need

  • Cheese crackers
  • Puff pastry
  • Anchovy paste or sharp cheeses
  • Garlic bread

Wine and cheese is a proverbially perfect pairing, but some cheese won't necessarily go with every wine. Light-flavored, young Brie favors crisp whites; buttery Camembert goes well with rich chardonnay or light-bodied reds; nutty Gruyere or havarti shines with reds; salty feta favors robust reds; and the rich intensity of good Parmesan or aged blue cheese mates well with bold reds or sweet dessert wines. If you want to serve one wine with several cheeses, a slightly off-dry riesling or a crisp bubbly works with almost anything.

Variety of cheeses on a dining table
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Cheese plates are often accompanied by bowls of nuts, and with good reason. Whether salted or unsalted, the bland, subtle richness of the nuts provides a flavor-enhancing counterpoint to the wine's own aromas, while the wine's acidity and tannins in turn serve as a pleasing foil to the fatty nuts. Some nuts, such as walnuts, pecans and skin-on almonds, are high in tannins themselves. They pair beautifully with sweet dessert wines, bringing out their nutty undertones, but should be shunned if you're drinking already-tannic reds.

Wine glass with cheese and nuts in background
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Things You'll Need

  • Low-tannin nuts such as cashews, macadamias or blanched almonds
  • High-tannin nuts such as walnuts, pecans or skin-on almonds

A selection of good-quality deli meats is a slam-dunk with many wines. Their concentrated, sweet and salty flavors and fatty richness work beautifully with red wines. Just remember to match them by intensity, pairing the relative subtlety of a good prosciutto with lighter reds, while a good pepperoni or even a well-ripened dry salami might require a full-bodied cabernet sauvignon or a Rhone wine. Full-bodied whites make a beautiful match for the richness of smoked salmon or gravlax.

Rustic table setting with prosciutto
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Things You'll Need

  • Prosciutto or other dried ham
  • Dry salami
  • Pepperoni
  • Smoked salmon or gravlax
  • Other smoked or cured meats, to taste

The varying flavors and textures of shellfish furnish matches for a surprising range of wines. Steamed mussels, or oysters on the shell, work well with champagne, or the mineral undertones in many bone-dry whites. The sweetness and richness of scallops, crab and lobster call for a full-bodied Chardonnay or Riesling, but aren't out of place with a light red. Plain shrimp are best with whites of any kind, but when breaded or served with a robust dip they'll stand up to a light red.

Various cheese and seafood appetizers on serving dish
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Things You'll Need

  • Steamed mussels
  • Oysters
  • Scallops
  • Crab
  • Lobster
  • Shrimp

Dips and spreads can also work well with wine, especially if your finger-friendly snacks are intended to serve as a meal substitute. Your favorite cheese dip, bean dip, spinach dip or crab dip all complement wines; and so can rich, meaty pate or rilletttes. Serve light whites with light dips, full-bodied whites or light reds with rich dips, and more robust reds with meat-based spreads. For a different spin, try outside-the-box options such as hummus or baba ganoush.

Tomatoes with dill cheese and hummus
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Things You'll Need

  • Cheese dip
  • Bean dip
  • Spinach dip
  • Crab dip
  • Pate
  • Rillettes
  • Hummus
  • Baba ganoush

Fruit can be chancy with wine, because if it's too sweet or too tart, it can alter your perception of the wine's character. Still, fresh or dried fruit are common complements to wine, especially in conjunction with rich cheeses or meats. Dried fruit goes well with nuts and dessert wine, and picking up fruity notes in the wine -- pairing melon with a melon-scented German white, for example -- is a good strategy. The lush honey-sweetness of a ripe pear brings out the bracing acidity in a dessert wine, showing it in a completely different light.

A couple toast with red wine
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If you intend to serve multiple wines and multiple snacks, don't expend too much time and effort on carefully matching one to the other. If you put out a selection of enjoyable wines and a selection of tasty foods, you've met your responsibilities. Leave it to your guests to decide which foods and wines taste best together. You might even choose to make that evaluation process the whole point of your evening, and challenge your guests to name their favorite combinations.

Friends toast at table
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