Wine and food each heighten the enjoyment of the other. A good match will bring out the nuances and enhance the flavors and unique characteristics of both the food and the wine.
The old rules — primarily red wine with red meat and white wine with fish and poultry — don’t take into consideration the complexity of today’s multi-ethnic and subtly flavored foods and the wide range of wines from around the world that are now conveniently available to almost everyone.
Below are some general guidelines when selecting the perfect wine to enhance your meal. A convenient food and wine pairing chart (downloadable PDF) can also be found by clicking HERE for immediate help in pairing.
- Select light-bodied wines to pair with lighter food, and fuller-bodied wines to go with heartier, more flavorful dishes. For example, Pinot Noir works beautifully with fish because you are matching light to light. Otherwise a full-bodied, heavier wine will overpower a light, delicate dish, and similarly, a lighter style wine will not even register on your personal flavor meter if you sip it with a hearty roast.
- Consider how the food is prepared. Is it grilled, roasted, or fried, for instance, and what type of sauce or spice is used? For example, chicken with a lemon butter sauce will call for a different more delicate wine to play off the sauce than chicken cacciatore with all of the tomato and Italian spices, or a grilled chicken breast.
- For every food action, there is a wine reaction. When you drink wine by itself it tastes one way, but when you take a bite of food, the wine tastes different. This is because wine is like a spice. Elements in the wine interact with the food to provide a different taste sensation like these basic reactions:
Sweet Foods like Italian tomato sauce, Japanese teriyaki, and honey-mustard glazes make your wine seem drier than it really is so try an off-dry (slightly sweet) wine to balance the flavor (Chenin Blanc, White Zinfandel, Riesling).
High Acid Foods like salads with balsamic vinaigrette dressing, soy sauce, or fish served with a squeeze of lemon go well with wines higher in acid (Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir). White Zinfandel, although not as high in acid, can provide a nice contrast to high acid foods. Bitter and Astringent Foods like a mixed green salad of bitter greens, Greek kalamata olives and charbroiled meats accentuate a wine’s bitterness so complement it with a full-flavored forward fruity wine (Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot).
Big tannic red wines (like many red Zinfandels, and Shiraz or Syrah wines) will go best with your classic grilled steak or lamb chops, as the fat in the meat will tone down the tannin (bitterness) in the wine.