The (not so) secretive world of wine & food pairing

Written by Scott


A basic introduction to the concepts behind wine pairing.

"The (not so) secretive world of wine pairings"


Picture if you will a classic dining room setting. The kind of scene you would see in any hotel in the 70's or 80's. A couple has just ordered their meals and ask the waiter for wine suggestions. Odds are the answer you would hear would be along the lines of: " Well for your fish Madam I would recommend the white wine and for your beef sir, may I suggest this lovely red".


 And that pretty much sums up the classic wine pairings that most of us grew up with; red with red and white with white. Seems like a no brainer at first, but in all reality that only touches the tip of the iceberg when it comes to wine pairings. There are an insane amount of variables to consider when choosing the right wine for a certain dish, among them being your own personal preferences which should be considered first and foremost when deciding.



To help you along the way here are some basic pointers and ideas to consider.


Basic concepts:

Regional dishes usually pair well with the local wines. It makes sense if you think about it, so for example let's say your eating pasta with a tomato sauce. A great pairing would be an Italian Chianti. Chianti's are usually very fruity but they also tend to be rather sharp on the back end. The acidic acid in the tomatoes cuts right through that bitterness  bringing out all the fruit in the wine. Looking for the perfect wine for that big piece of steak on your plate? Why not go with an Argentinean Malbec? Argentina is known to have some of the best beef in the world, so it goes to figure that the most widely grown grape varietal in the country would pair well with their specialty.


A bit further of a stretch, but still accurate is what goes well with Mexican cuisine. Let's say your cooking up tacos, nachos or you've just put together the most amazing chicken mole and you need to pair up a wine with it to wow your dinner guests. There aren't too many Mexican wines on the market (actually none that I can think of off the top of my head) but by thinking it through, it becomes rather obvious what should work. With Mexico being a Hispanic based country, you step sideways into the country of origin: Spain. Now at first this was just a thought, but through tireless experimentation using the "scientific method"(eating and drinking) I can happily report that on average this rings true.


Now let's briefly go back to the beginning here and discuss the white with white and red with red concept.

Yes this is true to an extent. Most of the time white meats like chicken and white fish will go better with white wine, while beef, venison and buffalo will pair better with red wines. The problem is; how often do we just cook an unseasoned piece of chicken without some sort of sauce or condiment? You see, it's not about the largest portion of food on the plate, but what is the dominant or most aggressive flavour. When serving something like chicken parmesan, it's not so much about the chicken(white) as it is the tomato sauce and cheese(red wine), or even more confusing is a steak Oscar. Red meat, white seafood and white sauce; which way do you go? This is where I usually go to personal preference. If you feel like red wine, go with a smooth non aggressive red. Prefer white? I'd be suggesting a very lightly oaked Chardonnay or a slightly weightier Chenin Blanc.


Now before I finish up, let's just put together a short list of some of my favorite pairings.


Barbecued hamburgers: this screams red Zinfandel to me. The combination of smoke from the BBQ paired with a jammy Zin full of mesquite smoke flavours and spicy notes gets me every time. Probably the best pairing I've had.


Chinese takeout: for white I think of an off dry Gewürztraminer, and for red; you can't go wrong with Argentinean Bonarda. The big issue with Chinese food and red wine isn't so much the food, but the top condiment used for it in North America: soy sauce. The saltiness of soy sauce will usually destroy most red's unless they are acidic enough to balance it off. Bonarda does this perfectly, which also rings true for teriyaki sauce(salty and sweet).


Roasted rack of lamb or braised lamb shank: Italian Amarone. If you're going all out with  lamb, you've got to go big with your wine, and their aren't too many bigger wines than Amarone. The sundried velvety character of this wine holds up to the depth and richness of the lamb creating an almost euphoric sensation for your taste buds.


I could go on forever here but you should at least get the general idea by now. The actual science of food and wine pairing is very extensive and can be very intimidating for most people, so hopefully this removes some of that anxiety for a few of you.

 If you want to learn more or have questions, stop by the store and talk with the staff.




Taking each day one drink at a time

Scott @ Vintage






Last Updated on Aug112013