An easy, logical guide to pairing food and wine…
Dinner parties are often a test in politeness. Do you like the food? Oh yes, it’s lovely. How do you like the wine? Oh, yes – it’s also very good. Food and wine are like Lennon and McCartney, Bevis and Butthead, Gin and Tonic – they are perfect together – if you let them be. Without graduating with a master sommelier degree, here’s how you can perfect your next dinner party, selecting the right wines to match your dishes.
Wine has always been crafted to pair well with food. With that in mind, it’s completely logical that a great Italian dish will often pair best with a great Italian wine! There are numerous exceptions to the rule, but if you consider a starting point of pairing the origin of your dish with the origin of your wine, you’ll instantly improve your chances of picking a winner. A classic French casserole will almost always be best with a French wine.
Punch For Punch – Or Run Away
A great wine pairing is about matching the intensity of flavor, or offering a complete contrast. A big bold steak deserves a big bold wine. A delicate raw fish dish deserves a delicate white or sparkling wine. But a spicy curry might deserve a sweet and refreshing white wine! This is a completely logical way to approach your pairings and makes it easier to draw your own drinking experience into the equation.
Heavily tannic wines, such as Bordeaux or Cabernet work a treat with fatty meats. Ever wonder why? It’s because fatty proteins from the meat remain in your mouth. When you sip a wine with nice tannins, the tannins strip the fatty proteins from your mouth refreshing your palate. Good to know, right?
Champagne And Salt
Champagne is dry, crisp, refreshing and delicate. Because of this, it pairs perfectly with most salty, intense appetizers. You’d be hard pressed to find a more classic pairing than a lovely smoked salmon with perhaps some citrus and a crisp, zingy champagne. Champagne is highly acidic and helps to cut the “fattiness” of smoked salmon. If you don’t want to splurge for Champagne, consider pairing salty food with sweet wines, even dessert wines.
It’s Not Just Red Or White
If you say red meat, people instantly think red wine. But actually, that’s not always the best approach. A heavy white wine will pair better with a heavy red meat than a light bodied red wine. Same can go for an earthy white meat dish, where a light bodied red wine may be better than a heavy, saucy white.
Think About Earthiness
Pinot Noir, Barolo and French Burgundy are highly regarded for their earthy qualities. Some might say “you can taste the soil” and that’s supposedly a good thing. Pairing these sort of earthy wines with earthy dishes based on mushrooms, duck, sweet potatoes and earth very heady flavors are almost sure to be a perfect match. Mushroom risotto? Rock out with a Barolo!
Heavy Read Meats With Heavy Red Wines
This is for the Sunday barbecues. A great big fatty steak deserves a highly tannic, supple wine. As with all these guidelines, don’t be afraid to ask your local wine merchant for something that’s big bold and full of supple tannin. In general? You’ll do best with a big Napa Cab or a nicely aged Bordeaux from France. To save money, consider a Washington State Cabernet, South African blend or a South American Cabernet.
Fatty Fish With Fatty White Wines
A big powerful fish, especially one with a buttery or creamy sauce deserves an equally heavy white wine. A creamy, lightly flavored chardonnay will often be the perfect solution. For less fatty fish, consider things like Sauvignon Blanc. But don’t get confused, rieslings have a lighter body, but heavier flavor, so pair them with more potent combos.
There’s a reason people often pair Indian, Thai or other spicy foods with beer. Refreshment is a key component of the dining experience when enjoying spicy ethnic foods. But if you insist on serving wine you have two distinct choices: choose a spicy red wine grape varietal like, Zinfandel, Primitivo Syrah or Malbec – or go with a sweet and refreshing white wine to cleanse the palate – such as a cooling Riesling or Gruner.
One Stop Shop For Pairing Ideas
Berry Bros & Rudd are wine merchants to the Queen of England and offer arguably the greatest wine cellar in the world. The company has put together a virtually fool proof guide to matching food and wine, breaking things down by meat or style. With one click, you’ll instantly have an idea what to serve with anything you’re cooking or ordering in – we’re not judging!