The Rules for Pairing Wine & Food
When it comes to pairing your favorite foods with the right wines, things can be confusing. Here are a few rules to steer you in the right direction when you plan your next gathering.
Go dry with hors d’oeuvres or cheese
A good dry rosé features a combination of the lighter body and fresher acidity of whites with the fruitier nature of reds. This is the perfect match for a wide assortment of hors d’oeuvres from simple to gourmet. A dry rosé is also a great choice if your meal involves a cheese course or a dish with a heavy cheese sauce, regardless of what that sauce is covering.
Try lower-alcohol varieties with spicier dishes
Since alcohol is known to accentuate the oils that make spicy dishes spicy, a lower-alcohol, drier wine like an off-dry Riesling keeps the spiciness in check. The bit of sweetness is another counter to the heat of your favorite curry, Thai, or pepper-infused dishes.
Keep reds with reds
The tannins in red wines are a perfect accompaniment to red meats and luxurious fowl like duck. The astringent tannins are what give reds their structure or body and what make them a natural fit for such dishes.
Keep oaked wines away from lemon and lime
Unoaked white wines are typically made in stainless steel tanks. The absence of any oak notes or tones keeps these wines, like Sauvignon Blanc, brighter and fresher. The sharper acidity can be likened to a squeeze of lime or lemon that heightens the flavors of any dishes containing or a good fit with lime or lemon.
Match wines to sauces
Though it’s true (as mentioned above) that certain wines go well with certain proteins, sometimes the protein isn’t really the star of the dish. If your dish features a sauce that actually defines the dish, match the wine to the sauce. If you’re serving chicken with a robust red wine sauce, opt for a red wine instead of the usual white.
Keep earth tones together
Find a wine that’s classified as earthy if you’re serving foods classified the same way. Mushrooms and bison, for instance, work exceedingly well with a Pinot Noir.
Keep dessert wines light
Always make sure your dessert wine is lighter than and not as sweet as your dessert. A wine that’s too heavy or too sweet combined with a dessert can overwhelm the palate, making both the wine and the dessert less enjoyable.
Consider champagne with salty dishes
For dishes on the saltier side, champagne’s sweet crispness can be a great pairing and can actually enhance the flavor of the saltier dish while giving the taste buds a respite from the salt.
A note on tasting parties
If you’re considering hosting a wine tasting party, keep in mind that some wines will seem to taste different when sipped alone versus with a meal. You and your guests might be surprised at how opinions of one type or brand change depending on the accompanying dish. You also might be surprised at how often lower-priced bottles fare better in blind tastings than some higher-end brands. In other words, keep in mind that what you like should matter more than what any “experts” say you should like.