Combine the Right Wine and Food for a Fun, Delicious Evening

red wine at home

Great wine and delicious food are two of the best pleasures in life. Of course there are ideal pairings. Some experts discuss these ideas with the highest level of specificity, but that may not be attainable for the average wine consumer, even a self-identifying “foodie.” On the other hand, more down-to-earth connoisseurs explain that it is effective to try and identify good pairings based on the flavor ranges of the food and wines. This approach is both financially and mentally accessible for the average person interested in the practice of crafting a complete meal.

The truth is that except for those with the most discerning palette, there are only three likely outcomes with a wine pairing. Either they go together well enough to enhance and compliment the flavors or one-another, they detract from each other and make the experience worse, or the flavors have little effect on each other and are just two separate, concurrent experiences. The most important thing when picking the right wine is to avoid a serious mismatch. Sometimes it can be effective and worthwhile to go for broke and find the perfect wine flavor to perfectly enhance the overall experience. But most of the time the goal is to find a wine that will work and stand up on its own, even if it doesn’t do much for the food.

The basic idea is to think about wines and foods in groups. Certain groups tend to go better together than others. For example, the strength of the wine and the food should be similar so that one doesn’t overpower the other. Foods can be strong, middling, or delicate in flavor. Similarly, wines can have powerful flavors, a higher alcohol or tannin content, or be known for their unique taste – or they can be mellow and have soft, delicate blends of flavors. The tartness or sweetness level of the food and wine is another example of where matching is the best bet. This also extends to flavor types and weight of the food and wine, for the most part. A high-tannin wine would work with a heavy, oily dish. Applying the idea of matching means accepting that sometimes it’s more useful to shoot for working comfortably together than to try and worry over exceptional and exciting compliments.

On the other hand, there are some examples of where contrasting characteristics are easy to pick out and will work well. Some dishes with strong flavors or characteristics such as spicy Indian, rich and creamy sauces, or cheeses get even better with a wine that can cut through the strength, an acidic wine in the first example and a light, acidic wine in the second. Similarly, fatty foods are complimented by a wine with a strong tannins, though this also seems an example of pairing strong with strong. The idea with these efforts is not to get too fancy, but to understand that certain foods are most enjoyable with a wine that can act as a “reset.”

There are countless guides that will suggest very specific ways to match one wine with one dish. A more general set of guidelines like this is meant to help people who don’t want to stress or worry too much about it and just hope to have an enjoyable meal that they feel they can comfortably design.

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