Wine and Food
GENERAL FOOD PAIRING GUIDELINES
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. So, when making a food and wine match, think about the four basic taste components your tongue recognizes: salty, sweet, bitter, and sour. How the food tastes, on this very basic level, can dictate a good wine selection for your meal.
BY THE WINE VARIETAL
Cabernet Sauvignon – Red meats, game, sharp cheeses and dark chocolate
Merlot – Pasta, lamb, prime rib and roast pork
Sangiovese – Ripe tomato dishes like bruschetta and pasta with red sauce
Syrah – Pork, beef and chocolate desserts
Chardonnay – Chicken, seafood and creamy soups
Riesling – Mild cheeses, fruits and shellfish
Gewürztraminer – Asian foods and Thanksgiving Turkey dinners
Beef, pizza and pasta dishes with red sauce
Semi-hard strong cheeses, chicken, white-fleshed fish and shellfish
BY THE FOOD
Generally, wines and foods belonging to the same culture are the most compatible; for example, serve Italian wines with Italian food.
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.
Appetizer wines are served as a cocktail or before the meal to sharpen the appetite. Dry sherry and chilled dry (white) vermouth can be served with any type of appetizer. Soft, light-bodied wines that are simple and fruity, such as Chenin Blanc, are usually suitable accompaniments for hors d’oeuvres.
The red with red rule works well with beef because the tannin in red wine scrubs beef’s rich flavor off the palate. Reach for a tannic Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, or Zinfandel, especially if the meat boasts a heavy sauce. Rare prime rib tastes almost sweet, so it’s perfect with a fruity Merlot/Pinot.
A dessert and wine match is most successful when the sugar/acid balance on the plate and in the glass are similar. With rich cheesecake, bring out a syrupy late-harvest wine. Complement chocolate cake by choosing a red wine with chocolate or spice components, such as a Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon. With fruitcake, open a dessert wine such as a sweet Gewurztraminer or Ice Wine. Super-sweet or tart desserts make most wines taste sour and flat.
Pair a sweet smoked ham with a sweet wine — a Chenin Blanc, Gewürztraminer, or Riesling. If you enjoy rosé wines, now’s the time to pop the cork; and for those who believe a wine’s first duty is to be red, serve a lightly chilled Beaujolais.
If your holiday turkey menu features sweet side dishes such as glazed carrots or marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes, choose a white wine with similar sweetness, such as a Chenin Blanc or Gewürztraminer. If your menu items are savory, you can lean toward a Johannisberg Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, or a light, fruity Viognier. If your bird boasts a spicy sausage stuffing, sip a Merlot or Pinot Noir.
BY THE WINE STYLE
Red dinner wines are usually dry and rich, sometimes with a tart or astringent quality. They go well with hearty or highly-seasoned foods, such as beef, pork, game, duck, goose, and pasta dishes (with red sauce).
White dinner wines are lighter in body and flavor and can be dry and tart or sweet and fragrant. Serve these white wines with foods such as chicken, turkey, fish, shellfish, ham, and veal.
Rosé wines are pale red wines that can be either dry or sweet. These wines complement ham, fried chicken, shellfish, cold beef, picnic foods, and buffet foods.
Dessert wines are heavier and sweeter than dinner wines. Serve dessert wines alone or with items such as fruits, nuts, pies, dessert cheeses, cakes, and cookies.