After learning how to serve wine yesterday, you’re well on your way to maximum enjoyment of your tasting experiences. Today you’ll learn how wine and food pairings can enhance the flavors of both.
There are no “rights” or “wrongs” when it comes to deciding which wines go with certain foods. If you enjoy a glass of Beaujolais with your Sole Veronique or a Niersteiner with your T-bone, go ahead. Mix and match.
But if you wonder exactly what to drink with a particular dish or in which order to serve several different wines, there are a few basics worth following.
Red Wine Pairing
Wines should complement the food they accompany. The stronger the flavor of the dish, the harder it is for a delicate wine to break through to the taste buds. And a heavy, full-bodied red can completely overshadow any kind of subtle creamy sauce. Red wine is traditionally served with red meats, darker sauces, and spicy dishes.
White Wine Pairing
White wines are so versatile nowadays that there are very few dishes that they cannot successfully accompany. But the key is to choose wines that will balance well with the dishes alongside them. This is often more difficult to judge with white wines than red. An unexpectedly sweet wine may do more harm to the flavor of a subtle sauce than a surprisingly fruity or tannic red. By the same token, a delicately flavored dry white may be completely overpowered by a plate of fulsome shellfish.
The two factors to consider are (1) the “weight” of the wine and (2) the acidity or sweetness. Good, refreshing acidity, as found in the Sauvignons of the Loire and Bordeaux, crisp Chablis, the drier wines of Germany and Northern Italy, and Vinho Verde, will be the ones to set against flavorsome seafood (e.g., oysters) and creamy, rich sauces. Fuller, heavier wines such as the Chardonnays of Burgundy, Australia, and California, the bigger wines of Germany and the traditional styles of Southern Europe like Rioja and Dão, are probably better suited to white-meat dishes—the ones that might go equally well with a light red wine. Some really full white wines will go deliciously with cheese at the end of a meal. The spicier varieties of Alsace and Austrian Grüner Veltliner are ideal with spicier food. They won’t stand up to a curry—no wine will—but they will combine their flavors interestingly with many dishes whose dominant note is an herb or spice.
With lighter rosés, favor the food pairing guidelines for white wine; heavier rosés can be served with bolder dishes.
The Order of Serving Wine
The flavor of different wines can also affect each other. So it’s worth thinking about the order in which you serve them either with food or at a tasting:
a. From lightest to heaviest.
b. From dry white to red, followed by sweet white.
c. From the driest to sweetest.
d. From least to best—each wine should be a bit better than the one before it.
e. From youngest to oldest when serving wines of the same type.
The suggested associations of foods and wines above are just that: suggestions. Try your own combinations. You may disagree completely. That’s what wine is all about: personal taste.
Are you ready to throw a party, guide your friends through wine tasting, and top it off with excellent food pairings? Great! But what do you do with the wine between the parties? Come back tomorrow to find out.
What to Drink with What You Eat: The Definitive Guide to Pairing Food with Wine, Beer, Spirits, Coffee, Tea – Even Water – Based on Expert Advice from America’s Best Sommeliers by Andrew Dornenburg, Karen Page
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