Wine is MADE to be consumed with food. Interesting pairings are limitless, and the discovery of them is an integral part of what makes the enjoyment of wine a fascinating and ever evolving journey. When pairings work optimally both the wine and the food are better than they are when consumed alone. Some pairings are so classic they are like peanut butter and jelly.
The age old rule for pairing wines of “red wine with red meat and white wine with fish and chicken”, while a baseline for starting an understanding of pairings, doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the nuances of pairing the myriad of choices in wines today with the complexity of ingredients and combinations in the new trends in gastronomy.
Here are just a few of the many guidelines and examples for pairings:
1. Pair comparable weight and style wines with comparable weight and style foods. A good example would be pairing either a Pinot Grigio from Italy or a Chablis from France with a light fish dish. Lobster and dishes with a heavy cream sauce pair beautifully with a White Burgundy or other Chardonnay. Fish with a lemon sauce pairs well with Sauvignon Blanc, as both have citrus flavors. At the opposite end of the spectrum, a Lodi Zinfandel or a heavy red wine from the Rhone Valley can stand up to a Boston butt, slow cooked on the grill. A big juicy steak will benefit from a bold red wine from either Bordeaux or California.
2. Drink local wines with local foods. Old World foods pair best with Old World wines. Escargot and Beef Bourguignon are wonderful with a hearty red Burgundy wine, and Tuscan foods pair beautifully with Tuscan wine. Think of the classic Mediterranean dishes of seafood, olive oil, and fresh vegetables or a fresh summer salad with a dry Rosé from Provence.
3. Sweet wines should be served with a dish that is not sweeter than the wine. Roast pork with a fruit glaze pairs well with a Riesling. Peaches, pears and apricots are lovely with a demi-sec Champagne or a Moscato. Ripe cantaloupe served with Port is a classic European dessert. Watermelon pairs nicely with a light sparkling Rosé.
4. Danger, Danger! Some foods just do not generally pair well with wine. Beware of artichokes, asparagus, vinegary salads, and sometimes eggs.
The ideas listed above are generally considered “tried and true.” Here are a few ideas for interesting pairings for some of the newer trends in gastronomy that have appeared in the last few years on restaurant menus: Pork belly pairs well with a Beaujolais or other Gamay based red wine. Wagyu or Kobe beef are complimented by Barbaresco, Red Burgundy or Right Bank Red Bordeaux wine. Many ethnic foods and spicy foods pair with a Riesling. Cronuts and other fried foods, (including fried chicken) pair well with Champagne.
HERE ARE THE TWO MOST IMPORTANT RULES FOR PAIRING WINE WITH FOOD:
1. Enjoy all of this with the people you love! Take the time to turn off the TV, invite friends over, throw something on the grill or put together some simple dishes and gather the family. At the end of the day, the importance of food and wine is the sharing of the experience.
2. DRINK WHAT YOU ENJOY! These guidelines are not cast in stone. If you are having fish or chicken and want to drink red wine, DO IT. Everyone’s tastes are different. It is great fun to experiment and discover new wines, new foods and new flavors, but at the end of the day – drink what you love!
Written by Pat Daniel. Permission to publish by Columbus & the Valley Magazine.