& Wine Pairing Tips
In the past, pairing
food and wine wasn't merely a marriage, it was an arranged match between
dynastic houses: red wine with meat and game, white with seafood and poultry.
The "rules" mostly addressed wines' acidity and/or richness versus the
four major tastes perceived on the tongue: salty, bitter, sweet, and sour
(some make a case for spiciness as a fifth). Of course, who can figure
out chemistry between people? Sometimes like prefers like, sometimes opposites
attract. It's the same with wine and food. Think in terms of shared attributes
(steak au poîvre with peppery Shiraz) and contrasts (sweetness counterbalances
saltiness or spiciness---you'd be surprised how well an otherwise insipid
White Zinfandel pairs and purrs with a fruit salsa or Thai food).
The Victorians enjoyed
champagne with the meat course; a rack of lamb lends itself to everything
from Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbaresco, and Syrah to a proper rosť to a crisp
grassy Sauvignon Blanc. One reliable rule of thumb is to choose a wine
from the same region as the dish. But as our tastes---not to mention fusion
(or, in many cases, CONfusion) cooking styles---have become more sophisticated,
the potential for matchmaking crosses as many viticultural and geographic
borders as the Euro. Of course, if you find the "perfect match," stick
with it---but fidelity is not necessarily the shining ideal when mating
food and wine. Even if you believe we all have just one true love out
there, keep experimenting. It's the best way to expand your wine horizons.
Think of wine as
food. This is one marriage where you want co-dependency. When you cook
you'd match ingredients carefully in a dish so they harmonize or provide
a counterpoint without overwhelming each other; it's the same principle
when pairing wine with food. Yes, even if you can't boil water or only
do take-out Chinese.
- Match the weight/texture/intensity
first. Hearty preparations and heavily spiced foods, for instance, demand
full-flavored, full-bodied wines; subtle dishes whisper delicate wines.
Imagine salmon in dill sauce and a massive, meaty Cabernet Sauvignon.
NOT! But forget that stuffy old adage about white with fish, never red.
Sure, red wine tannins react unpleasantly with the salt and oils of
certain seafood and light whites and N.Y. strip fight like a shabbily
dressed diner and an imperious maitre d'. But try a fleshy Pinot Noir,
Beaujolais (the Gamay grape), even a lighter Merlot with that salmon.
Tuna and swordfish "steaks" also match well with lighter or more elegant
- A corollary: often
a sauce or preparation is the dominant element in a dish. Your choice
should match the sauce first, then the base ingredients. You'd be surprised
how an opulent, buttery Chardonnay can stand up to steak---in Bearnaise
- Acidic foods require
high-acid wines (think red sauce pasta and Chianti). Sweet foods require
richer, fruitier wines. A dry wine will taste too lean and acidic. Tannic
wines work best with high-protein food (big red + steak, chocolate,
and aged cheese. Think Atkins diet).
- Find links between
the food and wine. Maybe it's flavor: smoky mesquite-grilled Porterhouse
with a smoky Shiraz or sautéed wild mushrooms with earthy Barbera.
But avoid color-coding or matching by varietal. And when cooking, don't
say, "Hmmm, that wine has a cinnamon note, so I'll add cinnamon to my
chicken." Once you know the different taste sensations, trust your palate.
Maybe it's texture: creamy risotto with creamy Viognier. Contrast can
also work: a brisk, acidic Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc will bring
out that risotto, especially if it's seafood. A classic example of both
approaches is rich, unctuous foie gras with rich, unctuous Sauternes
(a renowned dessert wine). But it also goes brilliantly with desert-dry
Champagne. (A rich dish requires either similar lushness in the wine
or acidity to cut through it---but the wine should be full-flavored).
When creating counterpoints, don't be afraid to take the unexpected,
even risky route
- The greater the
wine, the simpler the food: sure, the dish should be impeccable, but
here's one case where the wine is allowed to shine.
- One old rule makes
sense to follow. White wine goes before red, light before heavy, young
before old. That's not etched in stone, but your palate will adjust
- MOST IMPORTANT.
It's your taste that matters, so serve whatever you like. If you like
Pinot Noir, the wine equivalent of slipping on a Victoria's Secret negligee,
throw it at spicy Indian food. Wine is fun and meant to be shared. Enjoy!
From Bull's Blood to Youngbloods Hungary's Wines:
Hungary Wine Touring
Hungary Wine Tasting Notes
Canada's Can-Do Wine Impresario
The Cheese Cart
All-American Zinfandel: What A Grill Wants
Touring and Tasting Tips: Get the most from your visit to wine country
Food & Wine Pairing Tips: Increase your enjoyment of Food & Wine
by Susy Atkins
"Girl's Guide to Wine"
by Susy Atkins
"An Inquisitive Wine Game with a Strategic Finis"