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Food and Wine Pairing

Food and Wine Guide

Wine and food matching is complex. Many books have been written on this topic. However, before you submit to the many complicated or inflexible rules presented by apparently trustworthy experts, remember that in the1890s the best restaurants in America regularly served sweet white Bordeaux, like Barsac and Sauternes, with oysters and other shellfish. This is exactly the opposite of today's taste.

Although history supports evidence of the earliest wine making dating back to the Stone Age, it is the Romans who first professed to enjoy food & wine as a regular fare. While we have moved on from the simple food offered thousands of years ago, the assortment of food choices and the enormous variety of wines available today can seem overwhelming. The rules for matching food and wine, in this day, have relaxed a bit. Nevertheless the fact is that certain flavors mix better together than others. It's just a question of knowing what they are.

Drink The Wine You Like

Food and Wine Pairing

The best advice we can give is: Eat what you like and drink what you like. You'll find combinations that work, and they will suggest general rules that will increase your chances of creating other magical matches. And when everything comes together - the food, wine, the company - it creates a whole that far surpasses any single element, you'll be pleased you took the time and the effort to get the details right.

We recommend that the first thing you do after choosing the food is to drink wine that you enjoy. Forget the rules. Overlook all those shoulds and shouldn'ts. Forget about complicated rules for choosing the right wine to enhance the food on the table. This is not a perfect science. Just use common sense and follow your own instincts.

Choose a wine that you want to drink all by itself. Or, if you like a particular wine and want to drink it with everything that you eat - why not? Even with all the hoopla regarding matching food and wine, you will most likely drink most of the wine without the accompaniment of food. You will drink it before the meal, during cooking and after you've finished your meal. Therefore, you will not go wrong if you make sure the food is good and the wine is too. So, even if the match is not perfect, you will still enjoy what you're drinking.

Some of today's food and wine pontificators suggest that mediocre wines can be improved by serving them with the right food. We don't agree with that. If the match does not work as well as you hoped, you're stuck with a mediocre and disappointing wine. So, if you have gone to trouble to prepare a meal at home, why not spend a little time thinking about a wine to round off the food and see if it makes a difference.

Wine and Food Common Sense

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This is where common sense comes in. The old rule about white wine with fish and red wine with meat made perfect sense in the days when white wines were light and fruity and red wines were tannic and weighty. But today, when whites can be heavier and fuller-bodied than reds, color coding does not always work. T here is a whole new world of wine out there and better matches to be made.

As a general rule of thumb, red wines are heavier and more complex than white wines. White wines are usually a good wine for beginners because they are initially more appetizing to novices since they often tend to be sweeter.

Red wine is made from grape juice that contains skins, seeds, and stems. Leaving juice to mix together with the woody bits (known as maceration) causes the finished product to contain tannins. To understand the term tannin just think about a strong cup of tea. That woody taste is tannin. It can lend a wonderful complexity to a red wine.

Many flavors are common in both white and red wines. Both can be spicy, buttery, leathery, earthy or floral. But the apple, pear and citrus flavors in many white wines seldom show up in reds, and the currant, cherry and stone fruit flavors of red grapes usually do not appear in whites.

Food and Wine Paring.  Wines, Light to Heavy.

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All that being said, a guideline you may want to follow is that you should begin your meal with lighter wines and progress to heavier ones throughout the course of the meal. This policy reflects the idea that you should not overburden your palate. If you start with a strong wine, your taste buds will be shot and you won't be able to enjoy anything that comes after it. That is why aperitifs are typically light drinks while dessert liquids, like port and sherry, are rich and heavy.

When trying to match wine with food, these flavor distinctions come under the title of subtleties. You can make better wine choices by focusing on a wine's size and weight. As with human beings, wines come in all measurements. To match them with food, it's useful to know where they fit on the scale, with the lightest wines at one end and fuller-bodied wines toward the other end.

Our table of red wine and white wine will help you put the world of wines into perspective. We've organized the list using many of the most commonly encountered wines into a hierarchy based on size, from lightest to weightiest. We suggest you balance the wine with the food by choosing one that appears to be about the same weight as the food. This way the odds are increased dramatically that the match will be successful.

Choose a big wine at the end or a light wine at the top. Don't get stuck on Cabernet with lamb. Look up and down the list and try Zinfandel or Cotes-du-Rhone. Instead of Burgundy or Pinot Noir with roast beef, try a St. Emilion or Barbera. That's the way to put a little variety into your wine and food matching life without straying from the original purpose.

Choose a wine from the top of the list if you want a light wine. Choose one from the end of the list if you want a heavy wine. Or choose one from the middle of the list for medium heaviness.

More Common Sense In Matching Food with Wine

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Simple wine with simple food ...

As a starting point, it makes sense to enjoy everyday wines with everyday food. Save those fancier bottles for more elaborate meals and special occasions.

Hearty food needs a hearty wine …

Otherwise it will make a lighter wine taste bland.

A light dish requires a light wine …

Fresh seafood for example, is best enjoyed with a delicate, relatively 'neutral' wine such as Muscadet.

Weight is not the only consideration …

Wine and food can be full of flavor and aroma without being heavy. Aromatic Thai dishes are enhanced by equally aromatic whites such as New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. For Indian-style curries, try late harvest Gewurztraminer or a young Syrah-rich wine from the Rhone.

Match acidity …

Try to match the same acidity levels in your food to your wine. A tomato salad has a high acidity and needs a crisp, slightly tart, un-oaked white to go with it. Likewise, you need a fresh, tangy sweet wine (high acidity) to go with a fresh fruit dessert (more high acidity).

Match sweetness levels too …

Get help and suggestions on matching wine and food.

A creamy chicken korma and naan feast will have a certain sweetness to it too, so match with a medium-sweet German white, not a bone-dry Sauvignon Blanc.

These are the secrets behind some of the classic wine-and-food matches. Muscadet washes down a plate of oysters because it's just weighty enough to match the delicacy of a raw mollusk. Cabernet complements lamb chops or roast lamb because they're equally vigorous. The richness of texture is the same in both Pinot Noir or Burgundy so it makes a good match with roast beef.

Chardonnay is a crisp, dry white wine that is always popular. It is a taste sure to please most wine connoisseurs and complements almost any food. Because it is not a sweet wine it goes particularly well with richer foods in cream sauces, rich seafood such as lobster, shrimp or salmon, as well as specialty meats such as veal.

Sauvignon Blanc is not as dry as Chardonnay, and possessing a fruity bouquet, this is an extremely refreshing wine, ideal for a summer wedding. It is great on it's own during cocktail hour, but tastes particularly delicious when served with grilled fish dishes, crisp, cold salads or any vegetable dish. If you are serving spicy food, Sauvignon Blanc is an excellent choice.

White Zinfandel is a sweet, blush colored wine that is very well known. Although you might consider serving it during cocktail hour, it may not be the best selection for the dinner wine. The sweetness of the wine can be overwhelming, particularly with the rich food commonly served at weddings.

To make your own classic matches, start off on the traditional paths and then depart a little. It's a way to put a little variety into your wine life without straying too far from the original purpose.

Rules For Matching Food & Wine

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For those of you who wish to follow the rules, here are a few for matching wine and food:

Like with Like:

  • Sweet wine with sweet food
  • Sour foods with acidic wines
  • Bitter with bitter
  • Salty food with acidic wines
  • Red wine with red meat
  • White wine with white meat

Other Basis Rules:

  • Neither the wine nor the food should not dominate one and over the other.
  • Consider the finish on the wine, wrapping the whole dish together.
  • How tannic is the wine? High tannin would need high protein.
  • The acidity of the wine should be considered, for example, to cut through a rich risotto.
  • When matching dessert wines, think of the desserts sugar strength, bitterness and sour notes as this will determine the sweetness of the best wine choice.
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