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The New Rules of Food and Wine Pairing

Aug 03, 2012 09:42PM ● By Anonymous


It’s not that there aren’t any teeth to that oft-repeated rule; it’s that it’s too simplistic to give you the best culinary experience possible. The basics of food and wine pairing are not in whether the wine is red or white, but about if and how the wine either contrasts or complements the features of the food. Therefore, a Pinot Noir could go with a chicken or fish dish, while a Chardonnay would be perfectly matched to some heavier dishes—but the rules aren’t one-size-fits-all like traditionalists might expect.




Rule #1: Really need a simple saying? Try this one: “White with light, red with rich,” referring to the intensity of flavors. Mild dishes need light wines that won’t overpower the food, while heavier, richer meals can stand up to the bold flavors of, say, Cabernet Sauvignon.  



Rule #2: The sauce takes priority. Particularly with lighter proteins such as fish, or even when pairing with salads, it’s the sauce (or dressing) that stands out. A lemon-butter sauce, for example, does well with a Pinot Grigio, whether it’s on chicken or pork. A sub-rule: Acidic wines, such as Sauvignon Blancs, do not pair well with creamy sauces.



wine3Rule #3: Slightly sweet is best with spicy. Low-alcohol wines with a hint of sweetness, such as Riesling, best complement curries, stir-fries, or other spicy dishes.



Rule #4: Champagne and fried foods are the unexpected pairing of the year. The acidic bubbles of sparkling wine cuts through the heaviness of greasy fried foods, whether it’s fried oysters or fried chicken. As a side note, Champagne and other sparklers are perfect with any salty dish, too.



wine5Rule #5: Pair unoaked Chardonnay with food; sip oaked Chardonnay by the fire. In general, if the wine’s characteristics can’t be described with food terms, it doesn’t work well as a food pairing. Tree-free Chard is incredibly versatile, working with a range of meals from young cheeses to roasted poultry, but the oaky variety is best-suited for occasions where you’re enjoying the wine solo.



Rule #6: Choose a wine slightly sweeter than the dessert you’re serving. For fruit-based dishes, select a sweet wine with acidity, such as a Muscat. When pairing wine with chocolate, remember rule No. 1—lighter wines with lighter milk chocolate (Pinot Noir, Riesling), bolder wines for darker, richer chocolate (Zinfandel, Merlot).



Rule #7: Here’s another catchy saying for you: “If it grows together, it goes together.” Instead of thinking about the specifics of acidity and intensity, just pick a wine from the same region as the food you’re serving. Therefore, a Temperanillo is probably a good choice for tapas, a Chianti likely works well for Italian pasta dishes, and a Burgundy, of course, works for French cuisine, such as Coq au Vin or Beef Bourguignon.



wine9fRule #8: Pizza and beer? How about pizza and wine? A typical pizza, made with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and maybe smattering of pepperoni, calls for a fruit-forward wine with lower acidity levels (the tomato offers up plenty of its own acidity). Trying a medium-bodied Syrah or an Italian Chianti. If your pizza is lighter, say, a thin crust with plenty of veggies, a crisp white such as Sauvignon Blanc will do the trick.



Rule #9: Wine and cheese? Well, that’s complicated. A safe rule is sticking to similar regions, as referenced above, such as brie cheese with a French varietal; however, a few other generalizations to consider: Harder cheeses can withstand tannic wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, while creamy cheeses pair well with acidic wines. If a cheese is salty, such as blue cheese, pair it with a sweet wine for a delicious contrast.