They say there’s no time like the present, right? So how about using this time we’ve been given to do something you’ve maybe thought about often but didn’t have the time for? That’s right…we’re talking about Wine Pairing, and if you’ve ever wanted to know what wine went with what food, you’re in luck with Wine Pairing 101.
Common Sense Goes a Long Way
Luckily, wine pairing really isn’t as complicated as it may seem. Maybe you’ve been afraid to even look into what food goes with the wine you’re drinking because you’re concerned about the complexity or amount of expertise you need. The good news is that with a few basic pieces of knowledge (and a nice dose of common sense) you should be a wine pairing pro in no time!
Most importantly, remember that these days…rules seem to be evolving and that works in your favor! Common sense is key. You know that a nice cool pinot is probably not the best to pair with your famous three-alarm chili, and you’re probably not interested in pairing a heavy Chianti with a Cobb Salad. (Though new rules also say if it’s just you eating and drinking, you do what makes you happy!)
If all you ever know is a few things, remember this:
- Red wines are more bitter than whites
- Whites, rosés and sparkling wines are more acidic
- Sweet wines are best with sweeter foods
So when you’re looking at pairing wines, you want to take food and break it down to basic dominant tastes. Think salty, sweet, spicy (even with some acid) and fatty. Green salads are typically bitter/acid while creamy dishes typically range on fatty/sweet sides.
A good basic rule for pairing is to serve high acid foods with high acid wines. Additionally, match light-bodied, dry, low-alcohol wines with lighter dishes and full-bodied, higher alcohol and creamy-textured wines with heavier foods–your creamier, fattier dishes.
Tannic wines (like Cabernet Sauvignons or Malbecs) shouldn’t really go with fatty or oily fish but you can soften a tannic wine when you serve it with a salty or protein-rich food (hearty beefs seasoned well).
Here are a few other general pieces of helpful, basic information:
- Sauvignon Blanc is a higher acid, but lighter wine
- Chardonnay is not too acidic but is more full-bodied
- Pinot Noirs are lighter bodied red wines and they’re lower in tannins (bitterness)
- Cabernet Sauvignon is more full-bodied and has high tannins
So just tuck this away in your memory…generally speaking, red wines go with red meats, white with fish and poultry when in doubt. It’s also important to note that how you cook the main ingredient matters too.
For instance, fried chicken is very different from chicken parmesan which is very different from a creamy mushroom chicken. Consider matching textures of foods with wines as well, not just the meat type. Creamy foods often pair nicely with smooth, dry white wines (maybe a chardonnay or chenin blanc?) while for something along the lines of a chicken parmesan, may consider a traditional red burgundy or chianti. And if you’re pairing fried chicken with a wine, a crisp and aromatic white like a pinot grigio or Riesling can fit the bill.
Also remember that when you’re matching fish and pasta as well. It’s more about how you cook the foods than what the foods are, so keep heavier wines (traditionally reds) for heavier, heartier meals and lighter wines (traditionally whites) for lighter, less creamy meals.
Flavor also changes based on how you cook something. You can grill fish and it’s lighter, or you can use it in a Cioppino or stew and that may require something heavier. A good rule of thumb is to pair light-bodied wines (Pinots, Grenaches, Merlots) lightly cooked dishes and more full-bodied wines (Malbecs, Cabernets and Chardonnays) with meals that have heavier, more intense flavors.
Consider The Table
Most often, you’ll pair the wine with the main ingredient, but you also want to consider the side dishes of the table as well. Sometimes having lots on the table means your wine will have a heavy, hearty body. Lighter, more delicate wines often are preferred when it comes to lightly sided meals…say grilled chicken with a side salad.
What About Dessert?
As for desserts, you want your wine to be sweeter than the dessert you’re serving. This is tough because chocolate desserts are often super sweet but also pair nicely with light and sweet wines.
When it comes to pairing wines, it’s all about balance. You want to make sure your wine matches the weight and flavor of your meal, but you also don’t want to be so worried about what pairs that you miss out on the enjoyment of both your meal and your wine. Keep these few tips in mind when pairing and you’ll have the best of both worlds.
Owner, Fave Lifestyles
I was becoming an empty nester, a woman of a more interesting age and in transition. Sound familiar? I was at that place where we question our purpose, value, and worth and what in the world are we going to do with the rest of our lives.
I noticed women have a huge hunger to belong to a community of women where they can feel safe, share openly from their heart and have other women to do life with! This is why I created my Fave Lifestyles.
Fave is for the woman who wants to call Fave her community of women who support, uplift, and make her feel better about herself. I want to create a place where we help her answer life's questions and just do life together!
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