Eat & Drink

A Beginners Guide to Wine Pairing

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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.

And what’s even better is that with Firstleaf you can get 6 bottles of wine for Just $39.95! And they’ll deliver it right to your door! Learn more right here.

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.

Wine Pairing

An example of a box of wine sent by Firstleaf Wine Club

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.

And don’t forget to signup for 6 bottles of wine, delivered to your door for just $39.95!

Wine Pairing

Please note: Should you decide to join Firstleaf, gets a small percentage of the sale.

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Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, poet, TV host, activist, and general shit-stirrer. His website is one of the most influential arts & culture sites in the San Francisco Bay Area and his freelance writing has been featured in Lonely Planet, Conde Nast Traveler, The Bold Italic, and too many other outlets to remember. His weekly column, Broke-Ass City, appears every other Thursday in the San Francisco Examiner. Stuart’s writing has been translated into four languages. In 2011 Stuart created and hosted the travel show Young, Broke, and Beautiful on IFC and in 2015 he ran for Mayor of San Francisco and got nearly 20k votes.

He's been called "an Underground legend": SF Chronicle, "an SF cult hero":SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap": Time Out New York.