The menu is set, the guest list is finalized… but now you’re faced with the daunting task of picking a wine.
Besides making sure that your choice of wine is good enough for your guests and properly showcases your wine knowledge, now you have to makes sure it goes well with the food you’re serving.
Don’t worry, you may not be a master sommelier, but with a little knowledge you too can pair wine like an expert! Here are some tips to help you make sure wine and meal work together.
1. Don’t take yourself too seriously
Keep in mind, you’re not an expert.
You can’t be expected to perfectly match your wine with the dish so have a little fun with it. Matching wine is not an exact science and involves a lot of personal preference. Not to mention the fact that before modern times and the widespread availability of many varieties of wine, wine pairing didn’t really exist. Food was just enjoyed with whatever wine was available!
2. Pick a strategy
One way to go about picking a wine is by following a general strategy. Two popular wine pairing strategies are “complimenting” and “contrasting”. Basically, do you want your wine to add to the flavor of the dish (compliment it), or provide an interesting counterpoint (contrast with it)?
Another strategy, that we found on winefolly.com, is to pair regional foods with regional wines. For example, If you’re eating Italian food try an Italian wine or have French wine ready for a French dish.
Wines in different regions have been enjoyed with the popular foods being eaten there for a long time, so it only makes sense that matching their wines will result in some delicious combinations.
3. Follow these basic rules of thumb
“White wine for white meat and red wine for red meat.” According to honestcooking.com this often quoted rule works because fish and poultry go well with more acidic wines (which are usually white), and red meat goes works with wines that have a high tannin content (reds).
Keep them in the same weight class – A wine’s weight refers to its fullness or body. Weight usually correlates pretty closely with alcohol level. Vinepair.com uses the following general guide for wine weight:
- < 12.5% are generally light
- 12.5% to 13.5% medium
- >13.5% alcohol content considered heavy.
You want to try and match light wine with a light dishes like salad or hors d’oeuvres and a heavier wine with a hearty dish like pasta with a heavy sauce or dark meat. The reason for this is that it’s easy for the flavor of a lighter wine to get lost if it’s paired with a heavy dish and vice versa.
Sweet with Sweets – Choosing a wine for dessert can almost be an art in itself! There are plenty of pieces of advice regarding color of the wine vs. color of the dessert, specific types of desserts and wine flavor profiles, but we advise keeping it simple. You can’t really go wrong with a sweet wine with a sweet dessert!
Don’t Pair Bitter with Bitter- One of the biggest no-no’s on winefolly.com is pairing bitter food with bitter wine. Despite the personal preference involved we’d say play it safe and avoid getting creative when it comes to bitterness.
4. Or just take the easy way
If this whole wine-paring business seems like a lot of work that’s because it is. Luckily we live in the internet age, and almost every problem has a technological solution, including wine pairing!
Head over to food and wine pairing.org for an automatic wine pairing tool. It’s a website that generates a list of good wine options based on whatever you’re eating.
For an even simpler option, just reference this nice cheat sheet from winefolly.com!