When matching wine with food, flavors are important. That’s fairly obvious.
In fact, we talk all the time about matching wine with the dominant flavor of any given dish. For instance, a filet mignon calls for a different wine (I’d recommend Cabernet Sauvignon) than a pepper steak (Zinfandel) or a tri-tip (Syrah).
But because there are literally thousands of possible combinations, learning them can be a daunting task. We’ve found it’s much easier to deal with flavor “types,” which pares the pairing possibilities to a much more manageable number.
Here are four very basic tips that cover probably 90 percent of food-and-wine matching situations…
- Proteins and fats in food benefit from tannins in wine.
That’s why Cabernet Sauvignon — the variety with the “biggest” tannins — is the go-to wine when you’re indulging in a thick, juicy steak.
- Acid doesn’t match with much of anything… except acid.
So, pour acidic varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc or Gruner Veltliner when you’re dining on a dish with a citrus juice-based sauce, or salad with a vinaigrette dressing.
- Sweet-and-spicy is not just an Asian cuisine concept.
If Tex-Mex, Thai or Indian food is being served, and if your dish has a bit of a kick, you can beat the heat with an off-dry or semi-sweet wine such as Riesling — to go with the old standby: sparkling wine.
- Sweets for the sweet.
When indulging in dessert, keep in mind that the wine needs to be just as sweet or sweeter than the dessert. One exception to this “rule” involves dark chocolate, which actually can pair beautifully with some dry red wines.
But that’s another blog for another day…