Pairing wine with food can be an intimidating task. Visit any wine retailer and you may get overwhelmed by the walls of colors, flavors, vintages and regions.
So what’s the secret? How do you pair food and wine to highlight the beauty of both?
Chef Deb’s Pairing Notes
The basics of pairing wine with food start with our natural impulse to serve lighter, more delicate foods with lighter wines. This one of the reasons we gravitate toward lighter, milder wines, like chilled rose and champagne, in the summer.
In winter, we choose full-bodied, robust red wines to enjoy with richer meats like beef. True to our instincts, lean red meat, like filet mignon, pairs better with lighter red wines. And cuts like prime rib harmonize well with bolder reds like cabernet sauvignon.
There are always exceptions, however. You might think you could never serve chicken with red wine, or steak with white wine. But what about chicken with mushroom sauce? A merlot would match perfectly. And pork pairs wonderfully with pinot noir. One of my personal favorites is steak with champagne.
Another exception is spicy food. It’s easy to think spicy foods pair well with bold, red wine, but white wines can temper the palate after a spicy meal. Try a sweet white wine like Riesling with Indian curry to cool the burn.
The next time you’re tasked with pairing wine with food, keep the basics in mind, but consider the flavors, spiciness and particular qualities of the dish you’re serving. In general, think white wine for lighter proteins like chicken and fish, and choose red wines for red meat. But if the food is spicy or served with an unusually rich or light sauce, consider how the dryness or sweetness of the wine will affect the dish.
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