First off, we’re not going to do the color thing – red with meat, white with fish, or fowl, etc. because you can have a superb red wine with turkey (think a Pinot Noir) or a glass of luscious white wine with pork (think a big chardonnay) so that theory gets blown to smithereens. Second, it helps to think of wine as a food – much easier to contemplate what goes with what if you’re pairing something that tastes like cherries instead of a color, red!
So, here are five things to keep in mind when trying to decide what goes where and with what:
1. Acid likes acid. A wine with a lot of acid, like sparkling wine, likes acidic foods, think oysters. Or, an acidic red wine like Pinot Noir that pairs splendidly with turkey or pork (meat and fowl is acidic). Hence, you have a union made in heaven – sparkling wine and oysters.
2. Alcohol accentuates the spice in highly seasoned foods. So, unless you like that sensation of a three-alarm fire in your mouth, stick with fruity and lower in alcohol wines such as Riesling, Pinot Gris, dry Rosé when pairing with spicy, salty, or smoky fare.
3. Wines should be sweeter than the paired food. Ever been to a fancy wedding, sipped scrumptious champagne, then took a bite of that tantalizing wedding cake? What a disappointment! To avoid wedding-cake syndrome, pair sweet wines with less sweet food. If you find your food and wine competing for sweetness level, a simple hack is to add some lemon juice or vinegar to the dish.
4. The color of the wine doesn’t matter so much, but the body of the wine does. Richer foods with lots of fat should be paired with heavier, fuller-bodied wines. So, pair the Cabernet Sauvignon with a New York strip, or, conversely, pair that Sauvignon Blanc with a nice Spinach salad.
5. Food and wine pairings are about balance and synergy. The food shouldn’t overpower the wine, and the wine shouldn’t overpower the food.
Above all, experiment and have fun!