Pairing Food With Wine (and vice versa)

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There is so much misinformation out there about how food and wine should be paired up. Let’s start with the most widely stated “rule.” We’ve all heard that red wine goes with red meat and white wine goes with fish and poultry. This is pairing at its most basic, only useful on a very rudimentary level.

If meat were served, without sides, without sauces, and with minimal spices, this canard would be a decent rule of thumb for pairings. The reality is much more complicated. A piece of chicken, simply cooked, will match up very nicely with a Pinot Grigio. Throw that same piece of chicken on the grill and finish it with a strong BBQ sauce and your Pinot Grigio will probably taste thin and sour, but a Pinoit Noir, a Riesling, or a Zinfandel might taste incredible with it.

Fish should only be served with white wine, right? Not at my house. Salmon works great with Pinot Noir. Grilled salmon that has been basted with maple syrup can be amazing when paired with the right Shiraz or Zinfandel.

Okay, well you would never serve white wine with beef, would you? Why not? A tender, buttery fillet matched up with a big oakey Chardonnay works very well. Especially with certain sauces.

Which brings us to another less known rule, the one that says that wine should always be matched to the sauce used on the entree. This is a much better rule than the previous one. If you are the type who craves rules, this is the one to remember as it will rarely ever let you down.

Another rule that I have heard are that you shouldn’t serve blue cheese or asparagus with wine. While both can be problematic at times, it can be done. Many heavy, sweeter wines go very well with blue cheese and some Sauvignon Blancs are well suited to match up with asparagus.

Pairing wine with food is an art form that takes a lot of practice to perfect. The practice is more fun than humans should have and it only takes a little knowledge and thought to get started.

Look for more in-depth tasting articles to come.

  • http://www.pantheoncellars.com Jon Bjork

    I’d almost say it’s more important to consider how a wine will pair with the person you’re with, than with the food. I’ve got family members that have problems with nice dry wines, preferring anything sweet. It would be a waste to open a bottle of Bordeaux for them, but they’d be very happy with a white Zin.

  • http://www.pantheoncellars.com Jon Bjork

    I’d almost say it’s more important to consider how a wine will pair with the person you’re with, than with the food. I’ve got family members that have problems with nice dry wines, preferring anything sweet. It would be a waste to open a bottle of Bordeaux for them, but they’d be very happy with a white Zin.

  • http://omywordblog.blogspot.com Omyword!

    I never thought about pairing with the sauce, until I read this post. Then I imagined filet mignon with Bearnaise sauce and thought about an oakey chardonnay and went, “uh, yeah!” Thanks for the tip!

  • http://www.anotherwineblog.com/ Joe Power

    Jon, that is an interesting point. While I doubt it will change how I pair food and wine, it is something to think about. There is no way that I am serving a white Zin to anyone with anything under any circumstances, but perhaps planning the menu by taking my guest’s tastes into consideration, and then matching wine to that is something that I will take into account more. Food for thought. BTW, all wine (except white Zin) goes with food for thought.

  • http://www.anotherwineblog.com/ Joe Power

    Omyword (great name, btw), thanks for stopping by, and you’re welcome. Your example sounds delicious.

  • http://omywordblog.blogspot.com Omyword!

    I never thought about pairing with the sauce, until I read this post. Then I imagined filet mignon with Bearnaise sauce and thought about an oakey chardonnay and went, “uh, yeah!” Thanks for the tip!

  • http://www.anotherwineblog.com/ Joe Power

    Jon, that is an interesting point. While I doubt it will change how I pair food and wine, it is something to think about. There is no way that I am serving a white Zin to anyone with anything under any circumstances, but perhaps planning the menu by taking my guest’s tastes into consideration, and then matching wine to that is something that I will take into account more. Food for thought. BTW, all wine (except white Zin) goes with food for thought.

  • http://www.anotherwineblog.com/ Joe Power

    Omyword (great name, btw), thanks for stopping by, and you’re welcome. Your example sounds delicious.

  • Papa Lou

    On a more micro level, I’ve found that pretty much any wine with a note of fruit in it will pair well with a sauce/glaze that has the same, no matter what the protein may be.

    I got a big bottle of mango-curry grill sauce from some local gourmet shop as a gift last summer (it lasted me a solid month’s worth of grilling sessions), and when I paired it with a pinot noir with a note of cherry, a fruity shiraz or a crisp, sweet Reisling, it worked very deliciously. When I paired it one time with a big, sturdy, tannic Cab, it didn’t work at all, despite the fact that Cabs and curry usually match up well.

  • Papa Lou

    On a more micro level, I’ve found that pretty much any wine with a note of fruit in it will pair well with a sauce/glaze that has the same, no matter what the protein may be.

    I got a big bottle of mango-curry grill sauce from some local gourmet shop as a gift last summer (it lasted me a solid month’s worth of grilling sessions), and when I paired it with a pinot noir with a note of cherry, a fruity shiraz or a crisp, sweet Reisling, it worked very deliciously. When I paired it one time with a big, sturdy, tannic Cab, it didn’t work at all, despite the fact that Cabs and curry usually match up well.

  • http://www.anotherwineblog.com Joe Power

    Good point, Papa Lou. Matching the right note in the sauce and the wine can make almost any food and wine pair up.

  • http://www.anotherwineblog.com Joe Power

    Good point, Papa Lou. Matching the right note in the sauce and the wine can make almost any food and wine pair up.

  • http://kathleenlisson.blogspot.com Kathleen Lisson

    Great article! I look forward to reading more.

  • http://kathleenlisson.blogspot.com Kathleen Lisson

    Great article! I look forward to reading more.

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