Let’s talk about the basics needed to pair any wine with your food. That’s right — here’s the scoop on which food types go well with certain types of wine. This is one for the carnivores. I’m a vegetarian but many of my loved ones are flesh eaters. This one is for them…
Bad men live that they may eat and drink, whereas good men eat and drink that they may live. -Socrates
Wine & Food 101 by Damien S. Wilhelm
When considering which wine to enjoy with a particular meal, the only thing to keep in mind is that ideally, the wine and food should compliment each other by making each other taste better.
Keeping in mind the occasion at hand, certain wines are better suited for certain environments. For a picnic you would want something simple, where an anniversary would call for something special. Also taking into consideration the intensity of the dish determines which wine will accompany it best.
Mild and subtle foods go well with less noticeable and delicate wines. Spicy and rich foods are best paired with full-flavored and big wines.
You can even attempt to synchronize or harmonize the wine with the dish. A red wine with steak will play well with each other on your palate. While for a more pleasant contrast in taste, pairing salmon with a lemony, sharp, and crisp white wine will each vie for the attention of your taste buds. Pulling your sensory awareness, pleasantly albeit, in separate and opposite directions.
What follows below are some commonly suggested wines for various occasions, dish types, and courses. The only thing to remember is that for the individual, taste is unique. And as such, if you find you enjoy any combination between wine and food not mentioned here, or even one others may view as “off the wall” or “unrefined”, that does not matter.
The idea is to make wine and food better, in essence allowing for whatever you prefer to match acceptable. So experiment, and enjoy!
Wine & Appetizers.
When determining a wine to go with appetizers, you’ll want something that stimulates the appetite while keeping the palate refreshed. Appetizers with cutting flavors such as oysters, nuts, caviar, light cheeses, and canapés require something to contrast against. Champagne, sparkling wines, and crisp whites such as Macon, California, Fume Blanc, and a dry Fino Sherry will accompany most appetizers perfectly.
Wine & Sea Food.
When eating most seafood, you have to take into account that it can have a very strong flavor on its own. For that reason, you will want something with a high acidity as it accents the fish flavor. This is for the same reason that most fish dishes are often served with a lemon wedge to squeeze on top. For most fish dishes, normally you will want a crisp white wine. Shellfish require sharper whites such as Muscadet. While Lobster being as rich as it is, go extremely well with round whites such as Chardonnay or even white Burgundy. But when pairing with an exceptionally rich fish dish, such as a salmon steak, you will want a light red wine or dry Rose.
Wine for Flesh-Eaters.
When pairing with lighter meats, such as chicken, veal, pork, and even mild cheeses, you will want a wine that is both light and versatile. A wine that will not over power the dish, and once again, allow the two to compliment each other. You’ll want less tannic reds such as Beaujolais, Chianti, Pinot Noir, or even more flavorful whites such as Rieslings, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, and Gewurtztraminer. So long as you realize the meal you are eating is light in flavor, simply be sure to find a wine that is light as well. Unless of course, you wish to mask the flavor of the meal.
When a dish contains medium flavored meats, such as lamb, wild game, and very strong cheeses, you are going to want a wine that won’t be over powered. This would occur when drinking with the lighter wines mentioned above. This means you are going to want something which dances well with the flavor. Generally, pairing such meals with Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, ruch Burgundies, Barolos, Riojas, Rhone wines, and even other intense reds whose natural flavors compliment light red meats. The basic idea is to find a wine whose astringent tannins balance and work well with the fattiness of these meats and cheeses.
As you can imagine, this category contains the bulk of meat types to be concerned with. Ideally, you will want a wine that is assertive, it is going to have to combat with some of the fullest flavored meals man can conjure up. When dealing with ham, turkey, and sausages, try a fine dry Rose. It will be able to cut through these generally oily meats. When eating beef or steak, the perfect pairing is often with Pinot Noirs, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlots, Zinfandels, and other medium to full bodied reds.
Wine & Dessert.
Finally, special care has to be taken when pairing a wine with dessert.
Often times, the sweetness of desserts can easily overpower fine sweet wines. While also being overpower by heavier, full-bodied wines.
When eating a dessert heavily laden with fruit, such as tarts and cakes, go for Rieslings, Sauternes, and Muscats. When dealing with heavier, thicker desserts, such as Chocolate, go with a ruby Port. Both will coat your mouth while leaving an overtone to be enjoyed for some time.
Hi there! The author of this article is Damien S. Wilhelmi. If you enjoyed this piece you can follow me on Twitter @JakabokBotch. When I’m not spending my time figuring out the best wine pairings, I’m usually trying to find the best cheap wine online, best new beer, and places to drink both out in this exciting and wide world.
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