What wine goes with what food? If you’re planning a dinner party, a picnic, or a great solo meal after a long day, this can be a stressful question! Understanding some food and wine pairing basics will help eliminate that uncertainty and ensure that you choose the right wines to complement your meals.
It’s Really Up to You!
Please understand that this entire topic is subjective. People like what they like, regardless of the “rules” in place. And those rules, as most of us know them, say that white wine should be served with chicken and fish, and red wine goes with meat like beef and pork.
Well, it’s not entirely wrong. But it’s not entirely correct, either. Rather, a stronger emphasis should be placed on the weight, or body, of both the wine and the food, instead of the color of the wine. In essence, heavy foods pair best with fuller bodied wines, while light dishes are complemented by lighter wines.
This brings balance to the meal and allows the flavors in each element to enhance rather than overpower. It just so happens that many of the fuller bodied wines out there are reds, so they correspond well with heavier foods like steak or hamburgers.
There are some subtleties to be aware of, though. You may assume that because chicken is generally a lighter dish, that a light, crisp white wine will make the perfect accompaniment. Not necessarily.
The difference comes when you consider how the chicken was prepared. If you’ve got a grilled chicken breast, then yes, a light wine like a sauvignon blanc or even a shiraz is a good choice. However, if you’ve got a rich, roasted chicken with a bit of crust on it, something fuller bodied such as a pinot noir will pair well.
Another factor to consider when thinking about what food goes with what wine are the other ingredients present. Strongly flavored herbs or very spicy foods need a wine that will stand up to them without taking on those strong flavors.
For instance, wine can actually pick up intense flavors of onion or garlic, leaving you feeling like you’re sipping a wine with those unpleasant savory notes. Very spicy food can result in an uncomfortable reaction, too. The spices in the food can seem more intense due to the hot sensation that alcohol can create on your palate, completely altering the flavor of both the food and wine – and not in a good way.
Basically, when trying to determine what food goes with what wine, it’s best to remember this rule: heavy with heavy, light with light. Consider not just the main element of your dish, but also how it’s prepared and what the other dishes and ingredients are.
Knowing a few food and wine pairing basics can certainly help you make more palatable choices when planning your meals, but remember: at the end of the day, it’s all about what you like!