pfa09When it comes to alcohol, I have always been a beer girl — and not the fancy kind of craft beer, either. In fact, not even the regular kind in a bottle. Call me cheap or simple, but just pass me the can and I’m good. This trait, similar to my tendency to buy scratch-off lottery tickets, is just another way I make my parents proud every day.

That being said — where do I begin to make beverage choices if I want to throw an actual, grown-up dinner party? A can of beer is a good choice for a barbecue, but not for a semi-formal, sit-down dinner. Maybe, just maybe, I want to ditch the paper plates and Solo cups and break out the porcelain dishes and stemware instead. What to put in those wine glasses, though — well, that depends on the meal.

The glossary of wine terms is long and can be a little daunting. If you’re a vino novice like me, note that the tannins in particular wines (found mostly in reds, but also in whites that are barrel-aged) give them unique bitterness, complexity, and astringency. If you’re looking for wines to pair with your main course, that term will likely appear.

You can do research on the topic of wine pairings, or you could just use the vino 101 cheat sheet I’ve whipped up for you below:

I’m serving a light fish (like tilapia). Choose a Cava. Similar to champagne, Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine. Generally not too sweet, some varieties have floral or citrus hints. Cava pairs nicely with light fish dishes because it is flavorful but not too rich.

I’m serving a fish with a rich sauce (like baked salmon with cream sauce). Choose a Pinot Noir. A red known for elegance, a complex Pinor Noir pairs well with a rich fish dish (veal or pork work, too).

I’m serving red meat (like a steak). Choose a Merlot. Merlot, an extremely popular red, is an excellent companion to red meat, such as steak, because of its fruity yet refined notes.

I’m serving dessert (like chocolate cake). Choose a Port. Port is a sweet red wine that serves as fine company to desserts. If you are concerned about too much sweetness on your table, you can also find a dry or white Port.

I’m serving roasted vegetables (or other vegetarian dish). Choose a Pinot Grigio. Pinot Grigio is the most popular white wine produced in Italy. It has a crisp and fruity flavor that pairs well with roasted vegetables, hearty vegetarian dishes, or some meats (such as chicken).

I’m serving cheese (like Brie). Choose a Chardonnay. An immensely popular wine choice in the United States, Chardonnay is a white wine that comes in multiple varieties. Flavors range from neutral and zesty (unoaked) to rich and buttery (oaked). Serve the oaked variety with a soft cheese.

I’m serving pasta (or other high-carb dish). Choose a Riesling. A Reisling is sweet white wine that is light enough to serve with high-carb dishes. If you’re opposed to the idea of a sweet white wine, you can also find a Reisling in a dry variety.

I don’t know what I’m doing. Choose a bottle of Champagne and fake it. All you need to know about champagne is that it’s a sparkling white wine and it’s delicious. Serve this if your dinner party is in trouble. In fact, if your dinner party really bombs, you can always serve yourself the leftovers the next morning with your orange juice. (Hellooooo, mimosa!)

For more information on wine pairing, read what the experts at WineFolly have to say.

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