Follow Your Muse When Pairing Food and Wine

Music festivals can provide a wonderful opportunity to see singer/songwriters and groups with whom you’re not familiar, yet surprise your ears in delightful ways.

At one such festival over the weekend, we saw a group that included an accordion, an acoustic guitar and a tenor saxophone. Learning of the instrument grouping via the festival’s program prior to the performance, friends and I looked at one another and wondered aloud what that was going to sound like.

It turned out to be a “big” sound that was wonderful, evoking lots of toe tapping and hand clapping. Some people even got up and danced.

The point of the story? Never dismiss an idea out of hand. That goes for musical instrument pairing, and it goes for food and wine pairing.

Frankly, there are way too many “rules” when it comes to selecting the type of wine to serve with a given dish, or the type of dish to prepare for a given wine.

It’s much preferable to simply follow some basic guidelines — again, these are not rules…

* Pair white meats and fowl (pork, chicken, turkey) with white whites (Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Chenin Blanc).

* Pair white fish (halibut, cod, tilapia) or shellfish (shrimp, scallops) with Sauvignon Blanc.

* Pair red fish (salmon, trout) with Pinot Noir.

* Pair red meats (beef, lamb, veal) with red wines (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec).

So, why are these merely guidelines and not rules? Because each of these dishes can be prepared in a plethora of ways — including ways that profoundly change the overall flavor. Wine pairing should always be done with that in mind.

As an example, a breaded veal cutlet with giblet gravy would be a great match for Chardonnay. But top that same veal cutlet with a slice of melting mozzarella cheese and a ladle full of marinara sauce, and the pairing partner changes from a white wine to a red — such as Pinot Noir or Gamay.

Another example: Lobster served chilled makes a great pairing partner for sparkling wine — particularly a Blanc de Blancs Champagne. But if you serve the lobster warm with melted butter, a creamy Chardonnay becomes the recommended pairing partner.

When it comes to food and wine pairing, it pays to follow your music muse: Keep an open mind.

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Posted in Food and Wine Pairings/Recipes
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