Simple Wine and Food Pairings: How to Choose Wine to Complement Your Meal
How to Pair Food and Wine
When paired together properly, the right wine can bring out subtle flavors of a meal in such a manner that your dinner will be unforgettable. It used to be that people thought: white wine for white meats or fish, and red wine for red meats.
Put aside those rules, because they no longer apply. Wines should be chosen to complement food based on a number of factors: the wine's age, fruitiness, dryness and complexity, and the food's spiciness, amount of fat, sauces used in preparation, etc.
Do you need to hire a sommelier to learn proper enjoyment of food and wine?
Nor do you need to think about purchasing $50 bottles of wine, or buying or preparing gourmet dinners. Any meal is an appropriate occasion to experiment and decide what works best for your palette.
Expert Advice on Wine/Food Pairing
Primary Varietals of Wine Sold in the United States
- Pinot Gris
- Sauvignon Blanc/Chenin Blanc
- Pinot Noir
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Sparkling Wine
Choosing Wine to go with Your Meal
The basic tip for food and wine pairing is to consider the tastes and flavors of each. Since the meal is going to be the focal point, start there. Do the ingredients require rich sauces or lots of garlic? If so, you will probably need a red wine that can stand up to such a dish. A soft Pinot Noir may not do the job, but a nice Zinfandel (the red, not the white version) could be just the right match.
More delicate flavors such as white, flaky fish and sauteed vegetables, would not fare as well against a bold wine. And bold is not just red, but also heavy oak-y Chardonnays, as well. Consider a lighter, cleaner Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio in Italian) or even a Sauvignon Blanc.
Knowing the complexities of a meal may come naturally, but many people don't understand the basics of wine varietals and their nuances. You really do not need to talk in snobby "wine talk," to describe a Merlot as "jammy, or with a smoke nose." Again, this is about figuring out what you enjoy, and what tastes best when you eat dinner.
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Wine and Food Pairings
Wine Tastings to Determine How to Match Wine and Food
From heavy tasting to light, you can generally (but not everytime) expect the wines mentioned above to be arranged as follows:
Whites: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio). Gewurztraminer is a sweeter wine, and thus has to be paired very carefully so as not to be cloying.
Reds: Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir.
If you are just starting wine tasting and appreciation, a good bet is to get a small notebook in which you can jot down your thoughts after trying particular wines from certain vineyards. This will also help you keep track of the best values for your buck. You may be surprised to find many wines under $20 a bottle that can easily compete with those 2-3 times more expensive.
Tastings are available at vineyards, but if you don't happen to live in a wine region, then keep an eye on your grocery store or local wine cellars. Often, you can register ahead online to find out about special tasting programs, which may even be free if you buy a bottle of one of the featured wines!
Wine Bargains for All
Not only can you find some great wine bargains, but pairing them with food also can be economical. Summertime is a great season to prepare simple meals such as grilled chicken, fruit salad, and light rolls. With the longer days ahead, you can try a number of soft reds, whites and even some roses (not white zinfandel, but true French roses - there is a difference)! In cooler seasons, many wine aficionados change over to sweaters and deep reds. But some meals demand a Chardonnay instead - particularly creamy pasta, or some salmon dishes (though others may instead pair better with a Pinot Noir). A beef soup, or even simple spaghetti can be complimented well with rich red wine. Whatever you are cooking in the kitchen can be matched with a good, inexpensive wine. So, how are you going to get that bottle open?
The best thing about wine and food pairing is that there truly is no right or wrong answer when it comes to personal taste. If you enjoy your meal and drink, then that's what matters most. So, I raise a glass to you! Cheers and happy tastings!