The world of wine can be a confusing place. To the novice wine drinker, the choices are seemingly endless and the decision of which wine to pair with any given type of food can be overwhelming. There are, however, basic guidelines that wine experts and food lovers consider to be good choices.
When choosing wine to pair with food, a basic rule of thumb is to ‘match’ and ‘complement’ the characteristics of the food with the wine. Or, another approach, is to ‘contrast’ the wine. For example, one might try a sweet white moscato wine with spicy Indian food.
Another point to consider is the texture, weight, structure, and bouquet of both wine and food. For instance, rich food pairs well with a robust wine, while delicate food is best with a delicate wine.
Serious foodies also follow another unspoken rule: when dining on food with very complex flavors, don’t waste your money on high end wines. In fact, make an inexpensive choice. Their thinking is: why waste a premium wine since it will be masked by the complicated mix of food flavors?
The choice of wine depends heavily on the manner in which the food has been prepared. For example, most people would agree that chicken should be paired with white wine.
Yet, there are different weights of white wine that should be considered, depending on the preparation and recipe of the chicken dish.
For example, if the chicken has been poached, a delicate wine such as a young Sauvignon Blancwould be appropriate. When roasted, the fat gives the dish a richness, thus requiring a heavier wine such as a light Chardonnay. Or, if the chicken has been cooked in rich cream, an aged Chardonnay will be a great choice.
Use your sense of smell to choose a wine. The aroma of wine can vary from floral to perfumed to mineral to fruity (peach, melon, and fig), to butter, to nutty, to earthy. If it smells like toast or gasoline, that means the wine is no longer good, and should be avoided.
Spend a little effort learning how to taste and evaluate wine. Here’s how it’s done:
Take a generous sip of wine and swish it around in your mouth. Swallow.
Consider the taste and smell—was it fruity, woodsy, etc.?
Rate the wine as light or heavy. Ask yourself if the wine was sweet, rich or smooth.
Match your impression of the wine to characteristics in food. There should be at least one aspect that corresponds with the food, such as the sweetness, texture, flavor, etc. For example, the robust flavors of a spicy red Cabernet are the prefect compliment for rich roast beef!
There are no hard and fast rules for matching food and wine. At the end of the day, it’s really more a matter of personal taste. Pairing the right wine and food, however, is truly a culinary delight!