Food & Wine Pairings
Choosing a wine to go with a meal can feel overwhelming when you want to create an impression on a guest. In truth, it doesn’t have to be. While some pairings definitely work better than others, there are no really wrong answers. Traditionally, people have paired white with lighter proteins such as white fish, seafood and chicken and reds with red meat but it doesn’t have to be that way. The sauce, seasonings and other components of the dish can be just as important. The latter is very helpful when you have a guest that cannot drink red wine and you plan on serving steaks. The important thing to remember is that you don’t want the meal to overpower the wine or vice versa. Because everyone’s tastes differ, there are guidelines but experimentation with what you enjoy is the best way to find a good match.
White wines tend to have a higher acidity than red wines. The acidity in white wine can act as a palate cleanser and cuts cleanly through the creaminess of dishes such as fettucine alfredo or risotto. Some vintages have a much higher acidity than others. One the higher end of acidity you have wines such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Pinot Blanc. Low acidity whites tend to do better with very light sauces. They include Semillon and Marsanne.
Whites also generally lack the tannins of red wine, which comes from the skins and stems that are left with the wine during the fermentation process. There are some white wines that do have tannins though, particularly those aged in new oak barrels, such as some Chardonnays. The latter are a good choice for those seeking to pair a white wine with red meat or something traditionally served with red wine.
Generally, reds are more robust than white wines. They can match a heavier meal more comfortably than most of the more delicate white wines. Red wines are often defined by their tannins. Really tannins are another type of acid, one derived from the stems and skins of the grapes. It is the tannins that are believed to be the culprit for those who get headaches from red wine. High tannin levels do well with fatty foods such as deep fried foods. They also match up nicely with well marbled red meats and fatty poultry such as duck and goose. High tannin reds include Cabernet Sauvignon, Medoc, Chianti, Sangiovese, and Pinot Noir. Low tannin reds are generally more food friendly and go with most foods. They include Merlot, Tempranillo, Cabernet Franc, Barbera, and Garnache.
Both white and red wines range from light-bodied to heavy-bodied in the mouth. Matching heavy-bodied wines with something light such as a grilled white fish with little or no sauce is a mistake. The wine will overpower the dish. Many varietals have a range within them as well so it is always important to read the label.
When pairing wine and food, experimentation with what you enjoy is key. You can choose complimentary or contrasting flavours and do well. Much will depend on what you enjoy in a wine. If you only like red wine, then choose a lighter-bodied, low tannin red such as Merlot to go with lighter fare like salads. Because there is such a huge variety of wines, there really is something for everyone. You can use the chart below as a guideline but don’t be afraid to try other pairings. Enjoy!
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