Wine and Food Pairings for Beginners
This guide to making good wine and food pairings will help unleash your inner connoisseur — and help you enjoy dinner better.
Wine is one of those drinks that requires a bit of coaching in order for a person to fully enjoy it. After all, it's not like wine didn't get an elitist reputation for no reason.
To fully "get" how to drink wine like a connoisseur, you need to smell it, examine it, and just really savor it. Considering that there are certain people out there who pour years of work into learning how to taste wine properly, it's easy to see why people might get intimidated by doing wine and food pairings for the first time.
Thankfully, there are quite a few rules about wine pairings that can help ease your mind. This guide will teach you the very basics of how to pair foods with your wine.
One of the most common rules of thumb involving wine and food pairings is to match the color of your wine to your meat.
If you're totally lost when it comes when to pairing your food and wine, take a look at the meat that you're eating. More often than not, you can make a good pairing by just matching the color of the wine to the color of your meat.
As you probably know, white wine is known for being light, crisp, and delicate in flavor. White meat tends to require a lighter, drier wine — which is why most connoisseurs will pair white meats with white wine.
Meanwhile, red wine is known for its richness, its bold flavor, and for having stronger aromas. It needs a meat that can stand up to its strong flavor profile. That's why it tends to be paired with red meats.
If you're eating veggies, both rose wines and white wines will pair well.
The stronger the spices, the stronger the wine flavor should be.
Do not, for the love of all that is holy, try to "quench" a spicy dish with a light wine flavor. It will not work, and it will just make things taste pretty awkward. (If you've done this before, don't worry. It's a common wine and food pairing mistake.)
Strong, exotic spices tend to work well with both rich reds and rich white wines. So, look for bold goods when selecting a wine pairing that involves curry.
Traditionally spicy stuff like habanero chilis, Buffalo wing sauce, and Sriracha actually works well with bold white wines. Meanwhile, smoky chili peppers like chipotle peppers tend to do well with very bold red wines.
On the other end of the spectrum are the low-spice, low-seasoning dishes. These wine and food pairings need a lot of balance, otherwise, the food will taste flavorless and the wine will taste overpowering.
Cooking methods like steaming, boiling, and poaching tend to mean that delicate flavors are involved. This is often a cue that you will want to pair the food with white wine.
Sugary stuff goes well with sweet white wines and dessert wines.
Sweet works well with sweet, for the most part.
Dessert wines were made to pair well with fruits, baked goodies, and ice cream. That being said, most people aren't fans of dessert wines, but will happily take a good white wine that packs a sweet punch.
Either way, sticking to sweet wines is a good idea if you are the type of person who wants to pair wine with dessert. Avoid dry wines, with an exception for champagne.
When in doubt, ask a waiter to advise you on a good pairing.
If you're at a restaurant, especially a high-class restaurant, the easiest way to find wonderful wine and food pairings is to ask a waiter. In most upscale establishments, chefs actually will school waiters on wine pairings for the meals of the day.
Additionally, super upscale fine dining venues will often go so far as to hire a master sommelier. So, if waiters can't help you, the sommelier definitely will!
Or, if you're in doubt and have no guidance, just get a bottle of dry sparkling champagne.
One of the easiest ways to always feel "correct" in your wine and food pairings is to have a bottle of bubbly regardless of what you drink. Champagne is classy, so it's not like people will judge you based on that.
From personal experience, I've noticed that sparkling champagne tends to work with just about everything except for barbecue and overly spicy food. So, overall, it's a fairly good choice to have as a standby.
But really, all wine and food pairings are totally arbitrary.
The thing that people don't tell you about wine pairings is that they are all totally arbitrary. There are no right and wrong ways to pair wine — just like there are no correct aromas to pick up when you taste wine.
Most liquor critics who are legitimately in the industry will not bat an eye if you pair a white wine with steak. Why? Because there are some good white wines out there that pair beautifully with red meat.
So, if you like white wine, go for a white wine with your BBQ wings. If you love red wine, it's okay to order it when you're enjoying a seafood dinner. Wine is wine, so just experiment with whatever wine and food pairings you want!