Wine & Food

Your Pairing Guide

Wine & Food Pairing Guide ~ Kitchen Tricks

Your Pairing Guide

By now we've all heard that a glass of grapes in "reasonable" amounts is good for you.

Right?

Reds, which are rich in antioxidants and polyphenols, including powerful resveratrol, looks very much like blood.

When you drink it, you're really loading up on the healthy stuff that protects against destructive things in your blood, like LDL cholesterol, which can cause heart disease.

There's also a blood-thinning compound contained within the red varieties, so enjoying a glass reduces blood clots, which are associated with stroke and heart disease.

But, pairing the perfect grape libation to your perfect meal can be challenging for any host and hostess.

With a basic understanding of combination's and some creativity of your own, it's actually hard to get it wrong.

The first thing to remember is that there really are no strict rules.

If your libation chosen tastes good, go with it and enjoy.

Here are a few pointers though to get you started:

Try to match the sweetness, flavor, acidity, etc., with that of the food you are pairing it with.

Your dinner libation is meant to complement the taste of the dish, not overpower it.

For the most part, the color goes with meat of the same color; white with white meats; red wine, with red meat; however, this is a rule meant to be broken.

Is there a right temp?

Yes.

A wine's temperature is a bit like ours: A few degrees's difference can take it from just okay, to, Oh yes!

Most reds taste best between 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit, whites between 41 and 48.

To hit these ranges, remove chilled whites from the fridge 20 minutes before serving; cool room-temp reds in an ice bucket for 10 minutes.

Why it matters: Whites aren't as flavorful when cold, and sipping it too chilled numbs your palate.

Too-warm reds. may taste bitter and have a strong alcohol flavor.

Try matching your libation with foods from the same region.

For example, choose an Italian vino to go with an Italian dish.

Although you are well on your way to making your own combination's, check out our recommended food and wine combination's below (we've also included one listing for beer):

The Reds Cabernet Sauvignon

Dry • Medium to Full Bodied • Tannic

Pairs well with;

Red meat, BBQ, chicken, hamburgers, wild game, pork, duck, most cheeses

Merlot

Dry • Full Bodied

Pairs well with;

Roasted poultry, chicken, casseroles, lamb, venison, pasta, mild cheese, strong cheese

Pinot Noir

Dry • Light to Medium Bodied

Pairs well with;

Poultry, roast beef or pork, pork, veal, lamb, game, duck, grilled seafood, pasta, mild cheese

Syrah/Shiraz

Dry • Full Bodied

Pairs well with;

Poultry, beef, stews, chili, duck, lamb, goose, strong cheese

Zinfandel

Dry • Medium Bodied

Pairs well with;

Italian food, Spicy stews, chili, lamb, Mexican food, pasta, pizza, strong cheese

Chianti

Very Dry • Medium to Full Bodied

Pairs well with;

Italian food, Pasta, pizza, chicken cacciatore, eggplant parmegiana

Beaujolais

Dry • Light Bodied

Pairs well with;

Appetizers, Thai food, kabobs, sandwiches, seafood, mild cheese

The Whites

Chardonnay

Dry - Very dry • Full Bodied

Pairs well with;

Poultry, ham, Chinese food, sandwiches, lobster, fish, seafood, shellfish, shrimp, pasta, vegetables, and mild cheese

Sauvignon Blanc

Dry • Light to Medium Bodied

Pairs well with;

Appetizers, salad, chicken, fish, seafood, shellfish, ham, Mexican food, strong cheeses, desserts

Pinot Gris/Grigio

Dry • Light to Medium Bodied • Crisp

Pairs well with;

Sandwiches, fish, lobster, pizza, veal, poultry, mild cheese

Riesling

Semi-sweet to Dry • Light Bodied

Pairs well with;

Fruit salad, chicken, pork, fish, Chinese food, shellfish, sushi, sashimi, rabbit, mild and soft cheese, fruity desserts

Gewurztraminer

Semi-dry • Light to Medium Bodied

Pairs well with;

Poultry, fish, Thai food, BBQ, mild cheese

Champagne

Pairs well with;

Appetizers, fish, lobster, seafood and desserts

A Master Sommelier

Have you ever dreamed of curating an amazing wine list for your dinner party?

Here are some thoughts from a Master Sommelier.

Pick Your Libation Before Your Menu

You can season a dish around the wine (and add salt and/or acid), but it's impossible to do it the other way around!

Offer a Variety

It's great to offer a variety of styles (for example, a dry white, white that is off-dry, a lighter style of red and a full bodied red) as your guests will generally have very different tastes.

You can return full bottles back to where you purchased them if you're afraid of being stuck with too much.

Breaking the Rules

White with fish and red with steak is definitely a generalization!

You want to look at the sauce that is in the dish and the cooking preparation.

The heavier and richer the dish, the heavier and richer the wine.

However, every dish and every vino has its own characteristics, and much can be solved by adding a bit of salt.

For example for a fish dish that you want to serve with tannic full bodied red, adding zest of lemon to the dish can add that necessary acidity.

Don't Focus on Price

There is good quality at every price point (good value for the money).

Whether you're spending $10 or $100 on a bottle, it should represent a great quality/dollar value.

Think Pink (and Noir)

Surprisingly, rosés (including off-dry rosés) are very versatile, also higher acid reds (like Pinot Noir) work with a variety of foods and cooking styles.

Keeping it Simple

You don't have to serve an over abundance of varying types.

The first rule of pairing is to enjoy what "you" like to drink!

There are no hard and fast rules.

In the Kitchen

Want to add flavor and cut calories when cooking?

Try wine.

Red or white, lends a unique character to entrees, and can help reduce the amount of fat you use.

In some recipes, you can substitute vino for part or all of the specified quantity of oil.

We like to use it when sautéing or pan-frying, as it works well in place of the oil that it would typically require.

One thing to note: while cooking with your red or white can enhance flavor, you won't reap the health benefits, as the process of cooking results in few of the wine-related health benefits remaining.

Corks or screw-caps?

Screw-caps.

Traditionalist experts may scoff, but wine stays purer under a screw-cap than under any other closure.

In New Zealand alone, screw-cap use has risen from zero to an estimated 90 percent in five years.

Why it matters: Cork bark is riddled with natural imperfections, so it can leak or impart flavors.

Failure rates are 2 to 12 percent.

Does letting wine breathe really do anything?

Yes.

Oxygen does the same thing it does for you during a quick run: helps it loosen up (for wine, that often results in a more intense flavor).

Not convinced?

Pour half a bottle into a carafe, decanter, or generous-size glass and let it sit for up to 15 minutes before drinking.

Then compare it with a glass from a freshly opened bottle.

You'll notice more flavor in the libation that got air.

Why it matters: More complex wines, usually reds, benefit the most from breathing.

Cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and syrah are three in particular that can taste harsh right out of the bottle.

Letting them breathe will help them mellow out a little. And there you have it.

Wine & Chocolate

Pairing wine and chocolate is a match made in heaven for the foodie and wine connoisseur wrapped in one.

Just as with these libations, chocolate presents a complexity of flavors and textures, with the potential for subtle changes with each new batch of chocolate.

The first thing to know about these pairings is that you don't want the chocolate sweeter than what you're drinking.

This might necessitate a little nibbling and tasting in advance to find out but that's usually not too much of a hardship.

You want to purchase quality chocolate for the purposes of this pairing.

It doesn't really matter whether the chocolate is white, milk, or dark, its origins should be of a high quality.

The next to consider is to choose your pairing according to the darkness of the chocolate.

Just like food, the general rule is that the darker the chocolate, the darker the drink.

So, reds are great for dark chocolate.

If you're pairing with a white, look for fruity and intense varieties.

You'll want to consider choices with soft, rounded tannins to pair with the chocolate.

The smoothness of the drink is an important element when pairing with the smoothness of chocolate.

Think full-bodied to match with stronger, more intense, or heavier chocolates, as well as desserts.

I think the bottom line is to select the drink according to the flavors of the chocolate.

Wine Storage

Storing your bottles correctly will ensure the best tasting experience.

Many factors can ultimately influence your tasting experience, one of the most important being how it is stored.

Too hot and it will oxidize; too cold and the flavors will be muted.

Too much sunlight can also cause problems, as well as too little (or too much) humidity.

Here are some tips on how to store your bottles properly so you can ensure the ultimate tasting experience.

It's best to store bottles in the dark, on their sides, in relatively cool temperatures, and in a spot where temperature doesn't fluctuate much on a daily or annual basis.

A small closet in the interior of the house is perfect for this.

Extreme fluctuations of heat and cold (as experienced in garages or near exterior walls) can cause more pressure/vacuum to build up behind the cork, leading to greater incidence of leakage, or oxygen uptake through the cork, and too much exposure to light can adversely affect it's aging, too.

The best storage solution is a fully climate and light-controlled wine cellar, though that's likely more than the average enthusiast can take on.

Unless you're aging a collection for years at a time, an interior home closet will suit almost everyone's needs.

Also know that the storage needs of red and whites don't vary much, with low temperature fluctuations and low light levels remaining the priority.

You shouldn't leave your bottles in a specialty fridge for longer than a month or two if you want to preserve the quality.

And if there's one thing you should never, ever do when it comes to storing wine...do not keep bottles on top of their fridge.

It may seems like a good, out of the way place for wine storage, but its typically the warmest area in the entire kitchen due to the heat given off by your running fridge.

That heat will age and oxidize your investment quickly.

Keeping these base points in mind should get you going in the right direction.

Cheers!

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