Listen, the wine store can be an overwhelming place. Aisles upon aisles of bottles, red, whites, blends, sparkling, cava… What’s a girl to do? Don’t get discouraged! Pairing wine with food doesn’t have to be complicated or get too fancy. With these few tips in mind, you’ll be able to pick a bottle worthy of your meal. And remember: you can always ask the wine guy!
1. There are no rules. We’re sure you’ve heard never to serve fish with red wine or steak with white wine. Forget that. Buy what you like to drink. Don’t care for cabernets? Don’t buy ‘em! Instead focus on the qualities of the wine (is it sweet? Is it bitter? Is it heavy?) and where the wine comes from. More on that next.
2. Buy local... to what you’re cooking. Generally speaking, wine goes with food from the region. Wines from a coastal region will probably go well with seafood, Italian wine will pair nicely with an Italian meal, wine from landlocked countries will usually go well with beef or pork.
3. Think weight. Wine should compliment your meal. For it do that, you have to taste it. And for you to taste it, it has to be able to stand up to (but not overpower) whatever you’re having. A heavy meal (like a rich beef stew or a fatty steak) needs an equally bold wine. A lighter meal, perhaps ceviche, requires something delicate. So ask your wine gal a few questions with weight in mind.
4. Wine has age. You probably already know this, some wines are aged, right? And some wines come from the Old World (which is exactly what you think it is). Pair fresh and light meals with young wines and earthier meals with older wines. Veggie platter? Try a new California white, etc.
5. Wine qualities. Yeah, we know, there are a lot and they’re hard to remember. So we’re only going to give you one: pair fatty foods with dry wines. Tannins make wine dry. (You don’t have to know how or why.) Tannic wines go great with fatty foods that leave a residue in your mouth and on your tongue. Having a cheesy pasta bake? Go tannic.
6. Ease up on the sugar. Yes, there are dessert wines. No, they aren’t (always) meant to be served with dessert. They usually replace dessert. When pairing wines and food you’re looking for balance. So when you’re serving up your sweets, ease up a little and serve an acidic wine or a high alcohol wine for balance.
7. When all else fails, serve champagne. It gets a party going.