In Italy, the evening's first glass of wine always comes with a selection of aperitivi, or snacks. While you can serve any snack that you want to with wine, choosing the right snacks enhances the experience greatly. In general, you should serve snacks that complement and contrast a wine without overpowering its flavours.
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Wine and cheese is a classic pairing. The light acidity of the wine contrasts with the deep richness of the cheese; the right wine paired with the right cheese can create a flavour greater than the sum of its parts. Serve mild, soft cheeses like Brie, Camembert and goat cheese with a white wine; pair red wines with more intense cheeses like Stilton, Roquefort and other bleus. Medium-flavoured cheeses like cheddar and Gouda go well with either red or white wine. Serve the cheese on crackers or slices of baguette.
As with cheese, the deep flavours of roasted nuts go perfectly with wine. Serve tannic nuts like walnuts and pecans with sweeter red wines like pinot noir, merlot and dessert wines like port. Other nuts, including pistachios, cashews and macadamia nuts, work well with more acidic white wines. Pair spiced or honey-roasted nuts with a sparkling wine like champagne, prosecco or Cava.
Chilled seafood like crab, shrimp or clams goes well with white wines, especially those with citrus overtones. If you're serving the seafood with a ketchup-based cocktail sauce, pour a more acidic white wine like a sauvignon blanc; the sugar in the sauce will offset the wine's acidity. Match citrus- or vinegar-based sauces like a mignonette with a less acidic wine like an American chardonnay.
Olives, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes and other vinegar- or oil-marinated vegetables pair with either red or white wine. Cold grilled mushrooms, zucchini or eggplant work well with a flavourful white wine. If you're pouring a hearty red wine, serve thin slices of salami, prosciutto, bresaola or any other Italian cured meat alongside it. If you want to serve meat with a white wine, spread crackers or bread with pâté, terrine or rillettes.
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