Some pairings are simply classics, such as Champagne and caviar, goat cheese and Sancerre, and prime beef and Cabernet Sauvignon. Yet other dishes are so complex that wine pairing becomes a chemistry experiment. Fortunately for all of us, many styles of wine pair well with many styles of food. So if one chooses dishes that fit into wine friendly parameters or selects food friendly wines, pairing can be a cinch!
Simplicity of Pairings:
Match light fare with light wines.
Match fuller bodied wines with bolder flavors.
Match wines with foods that have the same flavors.
Match acidity of citrus dishes with an acidic wine.
Contrast fatty foods with acidic or tannic wines.
Pair sweet wines with salty dishes for a nice contrast.
Pair a dessert wine sweeter than the dessert.
Avoid young, fruity wines with truffles.
Instead, pair Pinot Noir with truffles.
Try food friendly wines first, such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and Cotes du Rhone.
Experiment, and trust your own taste preferences.
Complexities of Pairings:
Consider flavors of marinade and sauce.
Consider flavors brought by the cooking method (especially smoking or grilling).
Mute the strong flavors of asparagus, fennel, artichoke, or spinach with fat (butter or cheese).
Consider acidity of tomatoes carefully; try a rosé or Sauvignon Blanc.
Beware of the acidity of vinegar. It must be matched in the wine along with some sweetness.
Use gourmet vinegars instead, such as balsamic or sherry.
No pairing is wrong, if you like it!
Next month, learn how to pair wedding Champagnes with catered fare.
(Published Birmingham magazine, May 2007)