The last thing any party should be is bland, in any way. Flatware, music, and the entire horizon of the venue should be bubbling with excitement. While this is not an invitation to decorate each and every corner of the room where you and your guests will be enjoying several wines, it is a good idea to transform the room a bit for a new and more exciting time.

Emphasize the Evening

Wine Tasting

Wine Tasting by emdot

This is ultimately a wine tasting rather than another meal. The décor should reflect that. Consider placing a few empty wine bottles and corks at the center of the table, or at the focal point of the room if you expect guests may be moving around. If you are featuring the wines of a single country or varietal, perhaps give your guests an attractive list of the wines.

A wine tasting is not a hurried affair, so do everything you can to ensure it is not perceived as one. Candles beside the empty wine bottles (small carved ones as well as the larger pillar candles), a vase or two of fresh flowers, and quiet chamber music will all add to the relaxed atmosphere. If too much effort is put into the atmosphere, even with the best of intentions, it may be off putting. Few things are so stilted and uncomfortable as formal dinner parties. Avoid fostering that feeling in your room. A bowl of fruit, even if it is just a dish of apples, can help with that sense of stiffness. Not for eating, they will help any heaviness begin to dissipate.

If you choose, decorating in muted earth tones to mimic those associated with the more picturesque areas of Italy will work well. Give this significant consideration if you are serving primarily Italian wines. Otherwise, think other options through before jumping directly to it.

The Smaller Things

Guests, of course, like to be recognized. When you arrange your table, set a name card beside the appropriate setting. Using a lovely piece of card stock and a fine calligraphy, it will not have the sense of being back in a classroom. If you’ve had the time to make wine charms, be sure to use them. Since your guests will be using several glasses, consider placing it on each guest’s water glass. It is, of course, a small gift your guest can take along, perhaps with a bottle and cork from the evening.

Throughout the course of your tasting, you will accumulate a fair number of used glasses. It is just one of the battle wounds of a wine tasting. If

Wine Tasting Setting

Wine Tasting Setting by cizauskas

you have the room, arrange the glasses carefully as they are used, along with any emptied wine bottles with their corks. Naturally, in the center of the table is not the best place for this, but perhaps on a sideboard or a buffet style table.

Small mirrors set flat on the table will reflect any candlelight nicely, giving an illusion of more. If you have an available collection of picture frames, place a piece of paper or fabric with a matching pattern behind the glass rather than a picture.

Setting a perfect table and atmosphere will elevate your wine tasting to a new level. Rather than just a gathering of friends, it could become an evening to remember. Alongside the best wines you can unearth and afford, treat it as an opportunity to make discoveries with those you know and with whom you can enjoy them properly.

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Roast Rack of Lamb With Red Wine Sauce

Roast Rack of Lamb With Red Wine Sauce by museinthecity

Lamb is one of the most sought after meats from young animals, and more available than veal. It is certainly more popular than mutton, the meat from an older sheep. When it comes to pairing wine with lamb with a wine, a few guidelines are appropriate, but let your palate rule your choice.

The Main Choice for Lamb

Strong red wines are particularly delicious with lamb. Though lamb a young meat and so has developed less flavor than the aforementioned mutton, it is a red meat and so does pair quite well with red wines. To say that “lamb” prefers red wine is to simplify the question a bit too much. The term lamb encompasses a wide range of cuts: lamb chops, leg of lamb, and lamb shanks. Then the preparations: roast lamb, stew, kebabs, even ground lamb for burgers!

Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb with Red Wine Reduction

Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb by Sifu Renka

The fact remains that a certain preparation will alter the specific wine you need. Even within the red wine family, variations exist. Serve a Pinot noir with a lightly flavored preparation, such as a roast or a steak. Serve the stronger wines—Merlot, Syrah, Red Zinfandel—with more strongly flavored dishes. Ethnic dishes with spices, or more familiar dishes flavored with herbs and garlic all take well to very strong wines.

If lamb kebabs are on the menu, take the vegetables into account. Each vegetable contributes its own unique flavor to the overall profile of the dish. The wine you serve will need to adapt to each of these flavors.

But What About the Whites?

White Wine

White Wine by Danielle Bauer

Does lamb break the red meat-red wine rule? If you wish for it to do so, yes it can. Some of the newer pairings are a reflection of the spreading of most cuisines around the world. Highly spiced dishes—think stereotypical Thai or Indian dishes—work very well with sweeter wines such as Riesling and Gewürtztraminer. The sweetness is a delicious foil to the spice. Lighter whites work quite well paired with dishes filled with herbs, cheese, and fresh vegetables. Heavier whites are scrumptious with heavier dishes: think a Sunday lamb roast.

Red wine may be the best type of wine to serve with lamb, but it is certainly not the only. Lamb is itself an acquired taste, and pairing it with another sort of wine is as well. But just as you will never know if you care for lamb if you refuse to try it, you will never now how you regard white wine with lamb until you have sampled them together. Even if it’s a burger with ground lamb rather than ground beef, serve it with a Sauvignon blanc next time and see what you think. There’s no reason not to.

Food Wine (Best Pairing Listed First)
Lamb Dishes in General; Mild Dishes Cabernet, Rioja, Pinot Noir, Riesling
Lamb in Garlic and Herbs Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Rhône, Spanish red wine
Lamb Chops Cabernet Sauvignon, wines high in tannins
Lamb Shanks Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel
Grilled Lamb with Veggies Syrah/Shiraz, Zinfandel
Roasted Lamb Barolo, Châteauneuf-du-Pape

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Pairing the Right Wines for Your Meal

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Choosing the right wine is a great way to complement any meal. Whether you’re planning a formal dinner party to celebrate a special occasion or just selecting the best wine to pair with lunch, selecting the right wine is essential. You don’t have to be a connoisseur of fine wines to be able to pick [...]

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Put a ZORK in it…

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How to Pair Wine with Cheese

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How to Serve Wine Properly

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All wines may share certain characteristics, but their differences are significant enough to complicate the serving situation. To properly serve a wine, it is not enough to pour it into a pretty glass and hand it to your guests. Each wine category requires its own glass type and serving temperature; even within the larger group, [...]

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How to Make Wine Glass Charms

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Arranging a perfect table is not just a matter of selecting the proper glasses or plates. Sometimes, the tiniest accessories can finish the landscape of the dining room. When it comes to your wine glasses, particular if you have a number of guests at your home for a special but not entirely formal event, the [...]

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