Wine and Food Pairing Guidelines

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There is something seriously wrong with the illustrated food guidelines. Where's the wine?...

One Of Many Food Pyramids

Asian food pyramid guidelines

This section tries to answer the question Which wine goes with which food? Or if you prefer Which food goes with which wine? Of course we only scratch the service.

Once upon a time life was simple. Hamburgers were garnished with either Ketchup or Mustard, one and only one style of each. Few people north of the Rio Grande had ever heard of Salsa, and even fewer dared to try it. Today American supermarkets sell more Salsa than Ketchup. (Does this mean that Latin Americans have moved to Heinz? I don't think so.) In those simpler days, the rule was drink red wine with red meat and white wine with Poultry or Fish. Subsequently, that rule was replaced to read Drink What You Like.

This simple little rule created more problems than it solved. Of course you can still drink what you like. No wine column or blog will stop you. Few surly sommeliers will stop you. But appropriate rules, or more precisely guidelines can increase your enjoyment of both the food and the wine. Isn't that what it's all about?

Not everything goes with everything. Would you wear Doc Marten boots with an Armani suit? Do you put Dijon Mustard on a Banana Split? If you drink a light Italian white wine such as a Soave with Roast Game, you won't notice the wine's fruity nuances, so you may just as well be drinking water. And if you accompany a delicate Poached White Fish in Herbs with a massive, tannic red Bordeaux, the wine will overwhelm the fish. Don't even try to taste the herbs.

Instead of talking about rules, let's look at guidelines.

Top Ten Guidelines For Pairing Food and Wine

1. Match Flavor Intensity Match delicate wines with delicate foods, and conversely match powerful wines with powerful foods. The Soave goes with the Poached Fish, and the Bordeaux with the Roast Game, and not vice versa.

2. Opposites Sometimes Attract On occasion you may enjoy spicy foods such as Curries with sweet dessert wines. Personally I avoid applying this guideline too often.

3. Geography Reigns When in doubt select wine and food from the same area. The soil and microclimate may have a similar effect on both the grapes and the food. For example, Hungarian Cabernet Sauvignon tastes of paprika, the national spice of Hungary.

4. What's Sauce For The Goose Is Sauce For The Wine Pair powerful wines with powerful sauces, such as those produced by reduction, the boiling off of excess water. It's often wise to employ the same wine in the sauce and in the wine glasses.
Subrule- If a wine isn't good enough to drink, it isn't good enough for your sauce.

5. Balance Sweetness Avoid combinations in which the food is sweeter than the accompanying wine. Otherwise the wine may come off tasting thin.

6. Hot Weather Blues Avoid highly alcoholic wines on hot sticky days. Either go with a beer or a low alcohol wine such as a German Riesling.

7. Balance Acidity The food should never be more acidic than the accompanying wines. On the other hand, acidic wines such as Sauvignon Blanc tend to be food-friendly. So should we always drink acidic wines? I would say no.

8. Temperature Counts If you really want to do it right, use an ice bucket to chill most reds for five minutes before serving. Increase this time to 15 minutes for red Beaujolais and to 15-25 minutes for most whites. If you can't be bothered with an ice bucket, don't forget the fridge. A relatively small difference in temperature can make a big difference in taste.

9. When In Doubt, Open A Champagne Bottle If, like most of us, you can't justify champagne with most meals, choose a good sparkling wine such as a Spanish Cava. And don't forget Rule 5 (Balance Sweetness).

10. Drink Your Wines In The Right Sequence If you are lucky enough to accompany a meal with several wines, increase your enjoyment by drinking them in the right order as suggested in the following guidelines. Drink dry before sweet, white before red, young before old, simple before complex, and light before heavy. What about the inevitable conflicts, for example most sweet wines are white and not red. Between wines cleanse your palate with water or a small piece of bread.

Document Your Reactions

Some people keep records every time that they fill their gas tank. Some people keep records of every wine imbibed, with or without food. I am not one of these people. However, I strongly recommend that you keep notes for every memorable wine experience, whether positive or negative. Otherwise, you will likely forget important details. Remember the lost chord? And if you got a good deal on a great bottle, return to the wine store as soon as possible. When you tell your friends about your discovery is up to you. Always drink wine in moderation. If you feel like you have become dependent on alcohol, it would be a good start to research drug rehab centers to get the best professional treatment for your individual needs.

For my food pairing experiences with French wine read

My French wine articles

For my food pairing experiences with German wine read
My German wine articles

For my food pairing experiences with Italian wine read
My Italian wine articles


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