Know a Great Red? What About a White?
There’s only one real rule of thumb for pairing food and wine: you should always have wine with your food! Although you should not be afraid to try any wine you like with your favorite dish, there are some combinations that work better than others. The main idea to keep in mind is that the weight of the wine should match the weight of the meal. Light dishes go better with light wines, and heavy foods are better paired with heavier wines. Also, consider the sauce and accompaniments when choosing your wines.
Listed below are a few starting points for pairing food and wine. As always, do not be afraid to try something different.
Light wines with mild cheeses and heavier wines with stronger cheeses.
- Soft Cheeses – These include cream cheese style spreads, Brie, Gouda, Havarti or Swiss – try champagne or an aromatic white such as gewürztraminer or Riesling. Crispness in the white wine will play well off the butterfat.
- Hard cheeses – Asiago, Parmesan, Cheddars and Manchego are a few examples. If you prefer white, go with a heavier wine such as Chardonnay, but these wines are great with more complex reds including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chianti and Rioja.
- Blue Cheeses – The classic accompaniment is a dessert wine such as sauternes or a port.
Of all the dishes where the preparation method matters when picking which wine to serve, none prove the rule better than chicken. Roasted chicken is a perfect match for either a fuller bodied white wine like Chardonnay or lighter red. A creamy white Alfredo will compliment a rich, buttery, citrusy white like Chardonnay, while tomato based dishes will really favor medium bodied Italian or Spanish reds like Chianti, Sangiovese or Tempranillo.
While there will be some variation depending on preparation, more intense reds like Cabernet and Merlot pair well with beef. Tenderloin has a little less intense flavor than a strip or flank steak so either a California Merlot or Bordeaux will really hit the mark. With a more intense steak like a grilled rib eye or NY Strip, a full bodied Cabernet Sauvignon is the way to go.
Rich intense reds are the best choice to match the intensity and savory quality of lamb, especially wines with lots of ripe fruit. Look for Syrah, Shiraz, Petit Sirah, or Zinfandel.
Lighter meats with lighter wines. For veal, choose a medium weight red. If you are simply grilling, or mixing with a mushroom based sauce, a nice Bordeaux or a Merlot would work well. If you are adding tomatoes or tomato sauce, open a nice Chianti or other Sangiovese based red.
This is similar to chicken in the variety of ways it is prepared, but a couple ways stand out. For a traditional baked ham, you can use a fruity red or white, such as Pinot Noir or Riesling. For roast pork, especially with any kind of an herb crust, use a Cotes du Rhone. The bright fruit and slight spice of the wine goes great with all of that savory, salty goodness in the pork.
Crisp whites and light reds are the call here. For matches made in heaven, try a semi-dry white with shellfish, a lighter bodied white wine with white fish, and a nice Pinot Noir with more meaty fish.
Rustic reds are made all over the world and from a variety of grapes. What they share is an idea that simple yet hearty foods demand a similar style of wine. The marriage is beneficial to both; the wine brings the food to new levels and the ingredients in the food intensify the flavors of the wines. Some of our favorite rustic reds come from Rhone and Tuscany – where comfort food is a way of life. Look for Chateauneuf du Pape, Cotes-du-Rhone, or Sangiovese based red.
Sparkling wine represents one of the most food-friendly and refreshing wines available. It pairs just as well with blini and caviar as it does with warm turkey from the oven or Crown Pork Roast from our deli.