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How to Pick the Perfect Wine Pairing

Posted on by admin | in Housekeeping

Whether you’re throwing a dinner party for a group or planning an intimate meal at home, choosing the perfect wine to complement your menu can be a challenge for those that aren’t quite connoisseurs. If you’re not quite at sommelier level, there are a few quick tricks that can help you pull off a wine pairing with minimal fuss that yields solid results.

Know Your Red from Your White

As a general rule of thumb, white wines tend to pair better with fish, poultry and pork. Reds, on the other hand, generally set off the flavors of beef, lamb and game meats. There are some exceptions to this rule, but most of this pairing lies within the concept of balance. Red wines are usually heartier and heavier than their white counterparts, which is why they’re often better with heartier meats. That being said, there are those that don’t care for red wine and others who would prefer to pass on whites. In the end, the perfect pairing is one that pleases your individual palate.

Strive for Balance

Wines are broken down into three categories: light-bodied, medium-bodied and full-bodied. If you’re looking for a complementary wine pairing rather than a contrasting one, you’ll want to strive for a balance between the weight of your wine and the weight of your entrée. More advanced or confident hosts can work within the contrast principle, choosing wines that don’t necessarily share a flavor or texture profile with the food being served, but have contrasting qualities that enhance a particular dish.

Look for Versatile Wines

Versatile whites like an unoaked Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio can safely be served with almost any food with some degree of success. Similarly, low tannin red wines like Pinot Noir, Merlot and Grenache can be a bit less intimidating and more versatile than more distinctive, higher-end offerings. If you’re not overly confident in your pairing skills, choosing a few versatile wines may have better results than purchasing one expensive, distinctive wine with a complex flavor profile.

Keep Texture in Mind

Those descriptors on the label like “crisp,” “firm,” “soft,” “supple” and “buttery” are more than clever marketing ploys. They’re actually descriptions of the wine’s texture, which can be a big help when it comes to making a great pairing. For instance, a creamy Chardonnay’s texture will complement the soft richness of lobster.

Consider the Spice Level of Your Entrée

Extremely spicy foods can make it difficult to enjoy a carefully-chosen wine selection, but moderately spicy foods can almost always be paired with some level of success. First, be sure to avoid extremely oaky, tannic wines because the spices will accentuate those qualities to an unpleasant level. Fruity wines with higher alcohol content and a bit of sweetness can help soothe the burn of spicy foods, due to the fact that capsaicin is soluble in alcohol. Avoid going over 14% alcohol content, however, as it will emphasize the heat at very high levels.

Choosing Dessert Wines

A good rule of thumb when you’re looking for the perfect wine to pair with dessert is that the wine you serve should always be as sweet as or sweeter than the food on your plate. For dessert pairings, look for sweet or off-dry wines. On special occasions, the sweet, floral notes of Muscat Beaumes-de-Venise or clear blackberry or apple-based eau de vie are terrific dessert pairing choices.

If you’re struggling with your wine pairings and feel like you need the guidance of someone a bit more well-versed in these areas, your local wine merchant will generally be your best source of information. Discussing the menu you have planned and your confusion regarding the right pairing will almost always net a quick crash-course in wine selection. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, as a reputable wine merchant will be more than happy to help you to the best of their abilities.

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One Response to How to Pick the Perfect Wine Pairing

  1. Tara says:

    Excellent tips :) Whenever I’m looking for wines to pair, I always try to find something a bit different and unusual – a new region or obscure grape variety. But don’t stress it and have fun. Here’s a food & wine pairing chart that may be of help :)