When you have a wonderful dinner at your favorite restaurant, you can leave the choice of wine in the experienced hands of the sommelier. However, at home, in order to satisfy hourself, your family and your friends, you typically stick to the “red with red meat, white with fish” adage. What if for a moment you stop following rules? A fine wine paired with excellent food can turn a nice meal to an unforgettable one – and, honestly you don’t have to be a wine connoisseur to get it right.
If you see wine and food as complementary, as a joint affair, then you will be able to improvise and discover alternative combinations. The key is to see wine as emphasizing the flavors in sauces and adding dimension to your food. If you think like that, you immediately see that the point in pairing wine with food is to enhance food taste, not to decrease it. This is where the “red with red meat” adage applies. The flavor of red wines pairs excellent with meals that are rich in flavor. If you cook beef as a main dish, you cannot have white wine. The powerful flavor of beef and its heavy red sauce will wash the wine down. Strong flavors need strong wines; this is the cardinal rule. However, if you take the main ingredient and you elaborate on the sauces and condiments that pair with it, you will choose a wine that can elevate your meal. For instance, since lamb pairs with mint and red currant sauces, you can have a curranty Cabernet Sauvignon; as steak pairs with pepper, try a Syrah.
Chicken is a neutral meat. You can cook it with tomato sauce, mushroom sauce, lemon sauce or anything else it may come to your mind. You can grill it, bake it, steam it, or fry it. For each sauce you cook or each chicken dish you prepare you can pair different wine. For instance, a braised chicken with tomato sauce would pair delightfully with a red Burgundy or a Pinot Noir; fried or baked chicken would pair better with a Chardonnay, a Riesling or a Sauvignon Blanc.
White wines pair better with lighter foods such as fish because the aromatic scent of the flavors of white wines complements the flavors of the food; this is the cardinal rule. But, fish does not automatically ask for a crispy white wine. If you have salmon with mushroom orzo, a Pinot Noir will pair deliciously; with a steamed halibut, you may try an elegant, fruity rosé Cabernet Sauvignon.
All in all you have to keep things simple. Forget about rules and concentrate on the taste. Think of those big-shot chefs that cook dishes you would never imagine to cook because the combination of ingredients seemed weird to you. It’s all a matter of personal taste. Think of what would get the palate excited and then move on to something richer. This should be your cardinal rule. In fact, the best way to go is your heart’s choices, your instincts. Pairing wine with meat is as much a science as an art, and as such it can be disputed. Everyone can have different suggestions about what food goes with what wine. Just keep in mind that wine and food should always be in harmonious symphony. This is the perfect match.