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How to Select a Great Bottle of Wine for Any Occasion

Updated on April 1, 2015

Pairings to Consider

A dark red wine pairs well with red meat. Two classic examples are the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Bordeaux. Both have a heavy feel that compliments the meat, rather than being overpowered by it. The plentiful tannins (the bitter "bite" tasted) work well with the fat content and the rich flavors

If you've got fish on the menu, a white is just right. A light fish, such a halibut, can be paired with an equally delicate Pinot Grigio. Chardonnay compliments richer seafood fare, such as salmon and shrimp. For a rich seafood, such as oysters and other shellfish, a Chianti is a better match. A guideline to remember is that you never want one flavor to overpower another, but rather compliment. The wine should be just as bold or as subtle as the meal being served with it.

Cheese, Please!

A good rule of thumb is that cheeses mainly pair with white wines. Bloomy and complex cheese flavors can be easily overpowered or even completely clash with red wine. Most of this comes down to personal preference, but when in doubt, a light Pinot Grigio is just sweet enough to add a complex flavor to a cheese spread. If you are selecting a smoked cheese, Chianti provides a rich backdrop that mingles well with smoky flavors, but isn't too tannin-heavy like richer reds can be.

When in doubt, select a spread of three or four high-quality cheeses with similar characteristics and select a few bottles of wine with complimentary characteristics. Remember, delicate flavors (say, a soft chevre on a baguette) pair well with equally delicate wines. Chardonnay and Riesling compliment nearly any cheese spread. Add some nuts, bread, and fruit (fresh or dried) for variety.

Cheese and wine pairing mainly boils down to personal preference, so it makes a great discussion topic for any dinner party. Be sure to identify the types of cheeses and wines for your guests for a classic presentation.

Vintage and Aeration

So, now that you've narrowed down the varietal (the type of wine), we will now delve further into selecting the perfect bottle. Another characteristic to select is the vintage, or how old the wine is. Firstly, it is important to note that while white wines are enjoyed young, a red wine is superior when it is aged for at least three to five years.

What separates a red wine from a white are the tannins. A red is made with the grape skins, and as a result, tannins are produced. A red that is not aged properly tends to be overly bitter and not have much depth of flavor. Since a white wine is produced without the grape skin, there are no resulting tannins. The wine already has a smooth and fruity flavor, and there isn't much need to develop it further.

Another important thing to remember is that all red wines must be aerated, or exposed to oxygen, for about half an hour before serving. Simply uncork the bottle before your event and let it sit. You may also purchase an aerator, such as one made by Vinturi, to accelerate this process. This is why red wine and white wine glasses are shaped differently- reds need more surface area to be exposed to oxygen so the flavors develop. In addition to aerating it, be sure to use the proper glass type for the wine for this reason.

When in Doubt, Refer to A Visual Aid

They are concise and helpful with simple guidelines to follow for beginners.
They are concise and helpful with simple guidelines to follow for beginners. | Source

When it comes down to it, it's really developing a personal preference for wines and foods and instinctively choosing from there. While there are certain guidelines that one should adhere to traditionally, keep in mind that ultimately you are the one enjoying the experience of pairing a delicious meal with a wine together. The beauty of wine is getting out there and enjoying it, so what are you waiting for? Start searching for your next favorite bottle with the guidelines provided, and you'll be a connoisseur in no time!


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