Selecting the right wine to go with your meal can be intimidating. While a poor choice is not likely to ruin your lunch or dinner, the right pairing can significantly enhance just about any dish.
The good news when matching food and wine is, you do not have to memorize any complex systems to create the right combination. It’s not rocket science. Of course, it is always fun to experiment to create dramatic matches, but that is a more advanced strategy. If you are just looking to get your wine choice right, a few simple guidelines will help you make the most satisfying food and wine pairings.
Consider Your Guests’ Wine Preferences and Experience
Before you narrow your focus too much, consider what your guests might like as well as their experience with wine. Do they prefer red or white wine? Have they stated a preference for a certain country, region, or varietal
If your guests are fairly new to wine, they might not notice the distinction between your thirty-dollar bottle and one that costs a hundred dollars or more. But, if they have extensive wine tasting experience, they will likely recognize the subtle differences in varietals and even be able to distinguish a particular vineyard.
Compare the Intensity of the Wine With the Dish
When thinking about how to pair wine with food, make sure you consider the intensity of what you will be consuming. For example, a full-bodied red wine doesn’t pair well with a lighter dish that has delicate flavors. But a white wine does.
Likewise, few white wines are going to pair well with a heavy, rich dish that has bold flavors like red meat. But a red wine typically suits this type of dish well.
In general, you should pair appetizers and desserts with white wines and the main course with red wines. There, of course, are always exceptions.
Choose a Semi-Sweet or Sweet Wine for Salty Dishes
If you are going to serve a dish that contains a lot of salt, it is a good idea to counter that with a semi-sweet or sweet wine. This creates more of a balance on the palate. Some examples of sweeter wines include Moscato, Riesling, Chardonnay, and Champagne.
A few low-tannin red wines can also work in this situation. Examples are Pinot Noir and Beaujolais. A rosé wine is another option.
Select an Acidic Wine for Acidic Foods
Are you serving highly acidic dishes containing foods like tomatoes, citrus, and fish? If so, you should pair your dish with an acidic wine like Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Albarino, or Champagne. These high-acid wines also pair well with oily or fatty dishes because they help cut through that oil and will cleanse the palate.
Choose a Well-Known Label
Maybe you are a fan of a specific label but are not sure that your guests will appreciate it as much as you do. Unless you believe that it will be a sure hit, it might be better to save it for another time. You are more likely to impress your dinner guests with your pairing abilities if you choose a major label, such as one from Sonoma, Napa Valley, or Santa Barbara.
Combine Wines With Food from the Same Region
As a general rule, it is a good idea to combine foods and wines that come from the same region. For example, a Chianti will complement well with your favorite Italian dish, and a Riesling is going to pair favorably with a freshly prepared German schnitzel.
Choose a Rosé or Sparkling Wine as a Safe Bet
Maybe you do not know what’s on the menu or aren’t sure about your guest’s preferences. In either case, you are generally safe choosing a bottle of rosé or sparkling wine. Both are incredibly versatile and will go with just about any dish. And most people are happy with either.
Match Your Dessert Wine to the Dessert
The pairing doesn’t stop once the main course is complete. You should switch wines and complement your dessert wine according to the sweetness of your dessert. This is more complex than it sounds. Your wine should be at least as sweet as the dessert, or you will not be able to discern the complexity of the wine.
Get Help with Your Wine Choices
If you have any questions about choosing the right wine for your meal, feel free to ask one of our associates directly. The liquor department at Nick’s offers one of the largest varieties of wine, beer, and spirits in Southern Maryland – and at the lowest prices. We are always more than happy to make suggestions or even special order something for your upcoming event.