A Beginners Guide to Wine Pairing
Why bother to think about what wine you drink with your food? Because when you make the right choice, both will taste better. A good wine pairing — even with an inexpensive wine — amps up a weeknight dinner or makes a dinner party unforgettable.
The wine subscription service Firstleaf has created a guide to wine pairing: How to Pair Wine With Food.
As for the guide, it covers the basics:
– The truth about wine pairing rules
– Classic food/wine pairings
The Old Wine Pairing Rules
Just about everyone’s heard of the wine pairing rule: “Red wine with red meat, white wine with fish.”
Is this received wisdom accurate? Yes and no.
The first part, red wine with red meat, is broadly true. The bold flavor of red meat requires a bold wine to hold up against, and the strongest-flavored wines are red wines. There is a little bit of nuance within the rule, though.
Fattier cuts of steak should get the most bold and acidic red wines, like Cabernet Sauvignon. The acidity of the wine helps cut through the fat. Leaner cuts, though, aren’t as strong in flavor, and should be paired with a lighter red, such as a Cabernet Franc.
As for white wine with fish, the rule is not wrong, but it’s not 100% right either. You have to consider the type of fish, and the preparation. You might consider a light red wine, like Pinot Noir, If the fish is fattier or has a stronger flavor, like salmon. Or, if you are cooking the fish in a rich sauce, such as a tomato-based stew — you might consider red wine in that case as well.
The New Wine Pairing Rules
One of the new trends in wine pairing is the concept of geographic pairing. It simply means matching the type of wine you choose with the geographic location that your food is from, or that the food preparation style represents.
It’s a good concept to pair with the practice of eating local. If you are eating food that comes from the soil near you, it also makes sense to drink wine that came from grapes nurtured by that same soil. Here in the Bay Area we’re lucky to have a profusion of local farms and vineyards, so there’s plenty of choice.
Geographic pairing also has a historical basis. Most of the wine varieties we know are hundreds or thousands of years old, and were grown in a time when people had no choice but to eat mostly local. Because of this, they developed wines that tasted good with the foods that they had available. So it only makes sense that pungent Italian food goes well with strong-flavored Italian reds, and that the white wines of France go better with the lighter preparations of French sauces and spring vegetables.
Wine pairing rules have also had to adapt with the more global palate of modern eaters and restaurants. There’s no French wine variety that was made to pair with Indonesian food, obviously. For spicy foods, the rule of thumb is to go with acidic wines, or sparkling wines.
Classic Food and Wine Pairings
Some wine pairings never go out of style, and Firstleaf has created the handy chart below with some of the newer pairing guidance and classic pairings.
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