I am by no means an expert on food and wine pairings. But I have learned that a good pairing of food and wine makes for a better meal and a great evening with family and friends.
Long ago someone told me when pairing wine and food to remember that “white wine goes with white meat and red wine goes with red meat.”
I have always used that advice to build on my knowledge of pairings and wine selections. Doing wine dinners for the Tiedemann On Wines Wine Club has allowed me to expand my pairing knowledge and at times become adventurous.
Here are some of my tips to consider when pairing food and wine:
- Drink What You Like
This is the most important recommendation I can make. Drinking what you like always takes precedence over any other recommendation. If you like big bold reds (as I do) and want to drink them with fish, seafood or green salad, by all means do so. We all should drink wine to enjoy it.
- Pair By Type
Foods generally go best with wines they grew up with. Or perhaps a better way to put this is to pair wines and food from the same country or region. Italian foods pair very well with Italian wines, such as a Barolo, Brunello or a Chianti. Likewise, Spanish foods go well with Spanish wines, such as an Albrino, Tempranillo or a Spanish red blend. This is the simple and safe way out, but normally this is not very adventurous.
- Food and Wine Flavors Should Balance
Try not to let either the food or wine overpower one another. I suggest matching mild flavored foods with mild wines. Match big, flavorful foods with big, bold flavorful wines.
Here are some of my recommendations and guidelines for pairing:
- For most hors d’oeuvres, you can serve a light dry Rosé, a crisp dry white Pinot Grigio or a Prosecco.
- For salads, I generally like to stick to whites. My go-to wine for salads is Sauvignon Blanc. Here are my exceptions:
- Asian salads: I would pick a German or Australian Riesling or a Grüner Veltliner (a white wine from Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic).
- Any salad with blue cheese dressing: I would pick a medium-bodied Merlot (especially if there is bacon in the salad). A non-acidic white works as well as a German Kabinett Riesling.
- Pasta Salads: I would choose a Gavi (Italian dry white), un-oaked Chardonnay or a Chenin Blanc (French-Loire valley wine).
I have deliberately mentioned some wines you may not have heard of or tasted in this salad discussion (like Grüner Veltliner, Gavi and Chenin Blanc) in hopes that I might get you to try something new and different.
- For any dish you will squeeze a lemon on (fish, seafood, etc.), I would serve a soft to rich white, such as an un-oaked Chardonnay, Grüner Veltliner, Viognier (vee-own-yay), Sémillon or Sauvignon Blanc.
- Serve low alcohol wines (below 12.5% alcohol) with spicy foods. Wines such as Moscato D’Asti, Rieslings, Pouilly-Fuissé, Sémillon, some Pinot Noirs and Gamay (gam-may), a low alcohol red French wine.
If you are serving big red meats or cured meats, I recommend (depending on the meat) a tannic red wine (dry wines with a slightly tannic aftertaste), either a full, medium or light red. Examples are wines such as Cabernet, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Zinfandel.
- For lighter red meats (lamb and game meats), I suggest Pinot Noir, Merlot, Grenache, Tempranillo and Barbera Sangiovese.
- With lighter red meats and white meats, you should consider the flavor of any sauce served on the meat. Pair the wine to the sauce. If there isn’t any sauce, consider the lighter white and red wines (like I had mentioned earlier).
- When serving pork dishes I would recommend any of the following wines: Riesling, Vouvray, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Tuscan or Chianti.
- Earthy flavored foods such as beets, potatoes, some wild game and mushrooms should be served with earthy wines. Typically Old World wines have an earthy aroma, and a flavor reminiscent of earth.
- Finally for desserts I recommend red and white sweet wines and fortified wines, such as Lambrusco, Riesling, Moscato, late harvest wines, ice wine, various Port wines and Sherries.
Side Note About Tannins In Wine
For those of you who don’t know or understand Tannins, here is an explanation that may help you understand. I add this note as tannic wines play a role in food pairing. Tannins are an organic substance (polyphenol) found in plants, seeds, bark, wood barrels and fruit skins. In wine, tannins add both bitterness and astringency (a dry, puckering mouth feel).
Tannins taste similar to the flavor of black tea. The astringent flavor helps remove the fats from your tongue, helping cleanse the palate of the rich fats from a meal and provides a more refreshed taste of your wine.
Understanding the pairing of foods and wine simply takes practice and a certain amount of creativity. You’ll make some mistakes; I certainly have. It also can be fun and offer a sense of accomplishment making a good wine and food pairing. I can give you these hopefully useful hints, but only you can decide if the food and wine pairing is true magic and makes the dinner more enjoyable.
As always, I appreciate your support of our wine blog and encourage you to share it with family and friends. If you care to share your comments on this blog posting or other topics, please do so in the comments section below.
Until next week,