You've heard how certain wines should be paired with certain foods. You've heard about the no-nos – red with fish?? Beef and white?? The horror!
The bottom line? Make your own rules. Drink what you like. But be aware, there is much to be learned by tasting what the experts recommend.
There's actually some science behind pairing wines and food. The flavors found in wine come from acid, tannins, sugar and alcohol. Foods also have these flavor components plus additional ones like fat and salt. If you want your pairing to be complimentary, you should consider the specific flavors of the dish you are eating and the wine you are drinking.
Let's look at a classic example – a thick juicy steak. Steak has a high fat content; wine has no fat. So to balance the meal, a Cabernet Sauvignon is a perfect choice because the tannins in the wine act as a palate cleanser, allowing the rich, berry flavor of the wine to contrast with and complement the meaty flavor of the steak.
You can also be successful by matching the richness of a dish with a rich wine. A buttery Chardonnay is a perfect wine to serve with a creamy chicken dish because it can stand up to the heavy sauce.
What do you do when you're serving a combination of foods? Thinks of the meal as a whole – is it rich or acidic? Bold or mild flavors? Fatty or light? Look for a wine that will keep the meal in balance.
One tasting note – try sparkling wine paired with salt. This is a winning combination! Probably why that mimosa tastes so good with your brunch bacon.
The rules can change depending on the amount of spice, fat or acid in your dish. The most important rule to follow is what you like. If you really enjoy that Cab with your halibut, by all means drink it. But if you want to see how wine can be used to enhance your meal, refer to the charts below and happy experimenting!
Mary St. Germain is Chief Financial Officer of St. Germain Cellars and appreciates an oaky, buttery chardonnay. On the occasional break from wine, she enjoys Mai Tais with an ocean view.
(Image Credit: Photo Monkey/cc 2.0/M, Infographic/Nicole St. Germain)