Like many other women in the world, I enjoy a glass of wine with dinner or at a casual gathering or even out on a date with my honey. I’m also not afraid to try new things. White wine is usually my go to as I don’t prefer bitter wines such as reds, but my aunt has introduced me to a few reds that I really do like just as much as my beloved Pinot Grigio. I decided that, as my own personal experiment, I could try a few different wines to see which I like best and which are just a little too bitter for my taste. First, I need to know what wines go with what food groups, so I can meal plan accordingly. According to WikiHow, pairing foods with wines is pretty much an art form that requires a very complex algorithm of steps and methods to finding the perfect blend for every meal. Many of the wines on this particular list are foreign to me as I have never tried them, nor can I pronounce them… so maybe that means they’re really fancy?
In my reading, I discovered that there are a few basic components of different blends of wine that you should take into consideration when trying to pair the right one with your meal;
- Acidity- Acidic wines have more of a tart flavor (calling wine sour means it’s gone bad). Acidic wines can be described by the fancy Nancy’s as “crisp” or “lively”.
- Tannins- Tannins tend to make your mouth feel dry, leaving you with a dry gritty feel like you want to brush your teeth. This feel does not mean the wine is dry, however, as dryness in wine is usually in reference to the sweetness (strange, I know). Tannic wines are usually described as drying, chalky, hard, or coarse.
- Sweetness- The sugars in wine can have a pleasant, slippery feel in the mouth. The sweetness in wines can negate the bitterness of acidity such as adding sugar to lemonade can round out the flavors from the lemon. Sugary wines are called sweet, syrupy, off-dry, or extra-dry.
- Fruit- Red wines use darker colored fruits like raspberries, blackberries or blueberries while white wines use lighter fruits like lemon, lime, peach, or apple. These fruity flavors are often paired with an aged wood flavor like oak. It’s usually not hard to differentiate these flavors.
- Body- Body is more in the weight and the way a wine feels in your mouth. A good reference I found on this was to compare it to milk products. Light body would be comparable to skim milk, feeling light, hollow, thin, or watery. Medium body is more like that of whole milk. Full bodied wines are similar to heavy cream, being described as heavy, full, fat, or substantial.
Now that we are pretending to be wine experts and somewhat understand the different characteristics of wine, we can look at some of the advice the real experts have on pairing different wines with different flavors of foods and what particular wine goes best with what dish. Keep in mind that these suggestions are just that, suggestions. There are no hard-set rules on what wine belongs with what foods or vice versa. A lot of the time, actual wine experts say to trust your own taste buds and go with the wines that you prefer with whatever meal you want. After all, only you know what you really like. So, lets jump into the good part, where I actually tell you what types of foods pair well with which wines and suggestions on what wines to have with specific dishes. Again, I haven’t even heard of many of these and can’t even pronounce a couple of them, but I plan on trying them at some point.
Salty Foods– Saltier foods bring out the sweetness, hides tannins, and increases bitterness in wine so sweet dessert wines or very fruity reds go well with salty foods.
Acidic Foods– Highly acidic foods are not ideal with wine because they tend to cancel out the wine’s flavors. Vinegars, vinaigrettes and dressings are an example of acidic foods that can flatten a wine and make it taste overly sweet. Acidic wines should be paired with less acidic foods.
Bitter- Bitter foods bring out the sweetness in wines while masking the tannins and acidity. Young red wines work well with bitter greens, wild herbs, and olives.
Sweet Foods- Sweetness minimizes bitterness and acidity in wine. Pair sweet wines with food that isn’t overly sweet. Having both food and wine equally sweet would cancel each other out where as you want them to play each other up. With chocolate, pair a liqeur Tokay or a Muskat rather than a sweet wine.
Umami- This is a Japanese word for the taste you get from brothy or earthy foods like soups, stocks, roast meats or mushrooms. Umami takes the edge off tannins and brings out the sweetness, making it a good match for high tannin wines.
So now that we’ve covered the different components of wine and how they interact with different types of foods, we can get into the best part! Here is a list of foods and dishes and their wine counterparts. As I’ve said before, this is not a rule book, nor are these pairings set in stone. You can always make your own choices and pairings of whatever your favorite wines are with whatever foods you want to pair them with, just be sure to rely on your taste buds to be able to distinguish these different components and decide what you like best.
Beef and lamb A full bodied red Shiraz or Cabernet/Shiraz blend, Barbera, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Pino Noir, and Zinfandel
Asparagus A grassy Sauvignon Blanc
Grilled or roast chicken Chardonnay
Chicken cooked in rich sauces Shiraz or medium bodied Cabernet Sauvignon
Fish and Seafood White wines like Chardonnay, Rieseling, Pino Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc.
Grilled firm flesh fish Chardonnay or aged Semillon
Hearty fish stew Pino Noir
Flaky Fish Dry Riesling or Chardonnay
Spicy foods Riesling and Sweet Guwurztraminer (avoid Chardonnay as the spicy food can make it taste bitter)
Game (venison, bison or kangaroo) Spicy reds like Sangiovese or Shiraz
Tomato (acid) based foods Barbera, Sangiovese, or Zinfandel for foods like spaghetti or pizza
Duck or quail Pino Noir or Shiraz
Hard Cheeses Full bodied wines like Shiraz
Soft Cheeses Dry Riesling, Marsanne or Viognier
Blue Cheese Sweet wine
Desserts Sweet wines are good as long as the wine is sweeter than the dessert
Finally! A comprehensive list of what wine goes with what specific food and how it’s cooked and prepared. I always knew there were different wines better for fish than for vegetables, but who knew there were different wines for the different ways fish is prepared as well? I guess you learn something new every day. Drink up my friends!