Red wine with meat, white wine with fish isn't the end of the story.
It's only the traditionalist view, and as a start, it’s not bad. I break the
rule, though, if there are extenuating circumstances with either the
dish or the wine. I would probably rewrite the rule. “Red wine with
meat or dark sauces or red fleshed fish; white wine with white sauces
or white fleshed fish,” doesn’t roll of the tongue quite as easily,
though. With the vast array of wines on the market, the old rule
doesn’t even get us halfway to choosing a wine. Here then are my tips.
Wine as a Sauce
wine is as much a part of each dish as the sauce. Just as you wouldn’t
pour a heavy tomato sauce over a delicate piece of sole, I wouldn’t
drink a big California Cabernet with the sole, either. On the flip
side, a delicate meuniere sauce would be overwhelmed by a big hunk of
grilled steak. Bright, crisp, young Chablis would be equally
overwhelmed by a steak. It isn’t just the traditionalist in me that
says Chablis and Filet of Sole Meuniere is a match made in heaven.
my first wine pairing tip – think of the wine like an additional sauce
for your dish. Ask yourself if the flavors you get in a particular wine
are flavors you would use in the sauce. Also consider the richness of
the dish and consciously decide whether to complement that richness (Cabernet and Steak), or try to cut through it (sparkling wine with egg dishes).
you don’t know the flavors of a particular wine, ask us. Our
salespeople are here because we love to talk about food and wine.
Almost everyone in the wine business feels that way, including the
sommeliers at first class restaurants.
doesn’t have to be a perfect match of ingredients in the dish to
flavors in the wine. I’ve never used a cassis (blackcurrant) based
sauce on my lamb, but we know from tasting that a Cabernet based wine
works wonderfully. We also know that a Tuscan red, such as Chianti or a
Brunello, would work as well. If the tomato sauce would be good (see
the Dinnertime with 67Wine for a great lamb/tomato recipe,) the wines made for tomato sauces would generally be good, too.
Foods and Wines Have Homes
key tip is that the wines of a place generally go well with the cuisine
of that place. A great example is the dry, white wine made where the
Loire River meets the Atlantic Ocean, Muscadet.
On its own, the wine is light and refreshing, but pair it with fresh
oysters or steamed mussels and, bam! It comes alive. Rare beef? Perhaps
an Argentine Malbec. Try a Chateauneuf du Pape
with braised meat seasoned with herbs de provence. You can taste the
flavors echoing off each other, amplifying with each bite and every
Does It Bite?
more thing to take into consideration is the relative sharpness of a
dish. Bolder flavors require bolder wines. Italian fare uses a lot of
tomatoes and lemons, high acidity foods. The wines, therefore, need to
have high acidity to match. Wouldn’t you know it? Italian wines are generally higher in acidity than most others are, be it red or white. Food with a bite requires wine with a bite.
Simple or Complex
a simple wine, there is generally one flavor group that stands out. In
a more complex wine, there is a wider range of flavors. That wider
range will allow the wine to harmonize with the various flavors in the
keep in mind that complex wine will work fine with simple food, but
that complex food almost demands complex wine. The more ingredients,
the more flavors that are present in the dish, the less satisfied you
are likely to be with a simple wine.
big, young Cabernet will work beautifully with the plain grilled steak,
or with a sauce that echoes the main notes of the wine. When you start
making things with more ingredients, you are in essence layering
different flavors. You would start looking for older Cabernet, older Bordeaux, or Chateauneuf du Pape for dishes you would pair with red; White Burgundy (including Chablis,) Riesling, Sancerre or Pouilly-Fume
will complement white wine dishes. This is by no means an exhaustive
list. There are great, complex wines made all over the world.
wines begin life more complex than others because they are made from a
blend of widely different grapes, so even a younger one will work. All
the wines mentioned add more and different flavors as they age. This
aging, adding the so called bottle flavors, makes them more suitable
for the more complex dishes.
Now Break the RulesOne of my favorite things about wine is that there is a lot of it. If you think a Zweigelt (an Austrian red) will work well with your cod, go for it! How about Viognier with your corned beef? The worst that could happen is that you’ll have to try something else next time. Isn’t that great?
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