In a tasting menu, a chef creates a selection of food and wine pairings that showcase a variety of dishes and wines. They may be composed by a vineyard to showcase their collection of wines, or by a restaurant to showcase special menu items. Tasting menus are excellent opportunities to experience connections between wine and food, and to try a variety of wines.

What Is a Tasting Menu?

Tasting menus can take on a variety of shapes. Sometimes a restaurant tasting menu includes appetizer-sized portions, while others make up a multi-course dinner including appetizer, main dish and dessert. Some tasting menus are themed around a particular ingredient or wine type, while others showcase a wide variety of wines from a single distributor or geographic area. Some restaurants and hotels will host special wine tasting events; these can be multicourse sit-down dinners, or cocktail hours with wine and hors d’oeuvre pairings.

Wine Flights

Some restaurants or vineyards also offer “flights” of wines. This serving style involves serving a taste (usually about a half glass) of several types of wines. The wines are generally related in some way. For example, you may try a flight of various pinot noir wines from different regions or vineyards, or a variety of wine types from a single vineyard. Wine flight tastings often provide information about the wine’s characteristics and flavor profile. Wine flights may be served with or without accompanying foods.

What Can I Learn from Tasting Menus?

Tasting menus allow you to try new types of wine without making a commitment; most tasting menus provide only one glass (or a half glass) of each wine with its paired food. Attending a food and wine tasting is a great way for beginners to develop a better understanding of the connections between wines and foods, and see how different wines can have specific flavor-enhancing effects on certain dishes.

Trying pairings from a restaurant tasting menu can give you ideas for making food and wine pairings at home, and for ordering wines to go with your dish in a restaurant. You can even host a party at home where you create and serve different food and wine pairings to your friends. Be creative: There are no “perfect” parings, so drink what you like and try new combinations.