Follow these basic tips, or follow your taste buds
Wine and food make a great pairing. The two compliment each other so well that you can drink a wine by itself and think, “That was pretty good.” Then, you after you have it with the right food, you think, “Wow, that was great!”
Pairing wine and food can often seem complicated and confusing. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be. There are no absolute rules, only some basic guidelines to matching wine with food.
The most important point to remember is to drink what you like, and pair it with the food you want. However, if you want to venture outside of your comfort zone, and try some new pairings, this guide may help.
The first step is to think about the meal as a whole. Is the meal you are preparing light and fresh, or hearty and full of flavor? Is the meal going to be lean or fatty? Is it going to be rich or acidic?
The reason for doing this is because you want to match your wine with your meal. A light and fresh meal should be paired with a light and fresh wine, such as a Pinot Grigio. A rich and flavorful meal should be paired with a big, bold full-bodied wine, such as a red Zinfandel. A dish with fresh herbs will go well with a wine with herbal notes, such as a Cotes du Rhone or Gruner Veltliner. You want to keep all of your flavors in balance.
Here is a good example. If you are having a big ribeye steak, you would want to pair it with a big Cabernet Sauvignon. The bold fruit and big body of the Cabernet will pair well with the rich flavor of the steak. Another good example is pairing a chicken dish with a rich cream sauce with a rich buttery Chardonnay. Tannins and acid in wine work as a palate cleanser as well. When you are having that fatty steak, the tannins in the Cabernet will help clean your palate after each bite. If you are having fried chicken, the acidity in a Sauvignon Blanc will do the same thing.
You want to match acidic wines with acidic foods. Think of a shrimp dish with a lemon sauce. It would match well with a Vernaccia with hints of lemon and high acidity, or a pasta with a tomato sauce would go well with a Chianti, again because the wine has good acid. On the other hand, you want to avoid acidic wines with dishes with a cream sauce. Think of squeezing a lemon into milk. It would curdle and taste terrible.
Spicy food can often clash with wine, so if you are in the mood for spicy food, such as Mexican, Chinese or Indian, it is important to pair it properly or it can be unpleasant.
Spicy foods work best with wines that are sweet, such as an off-dry Riesling or Gewurtztraminer. The sweetness of the wine helps counteract the spice of the food. If you are in the mood for red, Syrah and Shiraz work well with spice.
Another good tip is to match the origins of your food and wines. Italian food goes great with Italian wine, Tapas go great with Spanish wines, French food with French wine and so on.
The most important point to remember is to pair the elements the way you want. There are no rights or wrongs, taste is a personal choice. There may be some trial and error when trying to figure it out on your own, but do what makes you happy and don’t worry about what other people think.
All of the tips above are suggestions. The key is to have fun with your own pairings, and as always, if you find yourself confused, ask your local wine professional and he/she will be more than willing to help you out.
If you ever have any questions about wine, or wine and food pairings, you can always contact me, Rob@vinovinonline.com. I will be more than happy to help. Salute and buon appetito.