When are Wine Pairings Useful?
When you think of wine pairings, you may think of hosting a wine & cheese party to impress your friends. Or maybe you think of a 5-star dinner, where the wines are chosen for you. While these are definitely appropriate occasions for wine pairings, you can utilize wine pairings more often than you think!
Pairing the right wine with the right food allows you to enjoy both the wine and that food to the fullest extent. When paired correctly, the wine should accentuate and enhance the flavors of your food—and vice-versa. So, whether you want to enjoy your dinner at your local wine bar as much as possible or find the best wine to go with that turtle cheesecake in your fridge, keep reading.
Wine Pairing 101
When pairing wine with food, you can take one of two approaches: 1. Choose your wine first and then select your food based on that choice, or 2. choose your food first and select your wine based on that food. Either way, you are going to want to choose a wine and a food item that complement each other.
Here are some guidelines to consider the next time you’re at a wine bar:
- Choose similar flavors that complement each other
- Choose similar sweetness levels—your wine should be equal to or higher in sweetness than your food
- Choose similar acidities—your food should be close to the same acidity as your wine, but never higher
- Pair wines by color—light wines pair well with light foods, just as rich-colored wines pair better with rich foods
- Choose a similar weight/texture—both foods and wines can be light, medium, or heavy-bodied
- Pair your wine based on a dish’s sauce—if there is no sauce, pair with the meat (in general, red wines go well with red meat and white wines with poultry or fish)
- Pair fatty foods with wines with a lot of tannins*
- Pair spicy foods with sweeter wines to give your taste buds some relief
*Tannins come from the skin of the grape and give wine a dry and sometimes bitter taste.
And Now for the Fun Part
Now that we’ve established guidelines for pairing wines with foods, it is time to put what we’ve learned into practice. We’re going to show you how to pair different foods with some of the most popular types of wines. The next time you’re out for happy hour drinks at your favorite wine bar, you’ll be able to expertly pair your wine and tapas.
- Cabernet Sauvignon—This full-bodied, bold wine should be paired with equally bold dishes. To balance out the heavy tannins, you’ll want a dish with fat and protein. Try a hearty dish like a rack of lamb, baby back ribs, or a Prime New York steak.
- Merlot—Merlots are softer than Cabernets, with less overpowering tannins. They tend to be medium-bodied and pair well with rich sauces, Italian dishes, roasted chicken, and caramelized vegetables. Pair a glass with a dish with a hint of spice like blackened fish or an Italian staple: spaghetti and meatballs.
- Pinot Noir—Pinot noir is a very versatile wine, with different styles of the wine pairing well with a range of different foods. Most pinot noirs are light bodied, with prominent fruit flavors and warm undertones. The tannins are typically less pronounced, allowing for it to be paired with anything from cheese, to chocolate, to a hearty roasted duck. Enjoy a glass of pinot noir with Brie or goat cheese at your local wine bar or some ahi tuna.
- Chardonnay—Chardonnay is considered the most popular white wine in the United States. This has a lot to do with the versatility of the wine. Chardonnays tend to be rich and creamy, with citrus undertones. These wines pair well with fish, shellfish, risotto, creamy or buttery sauces, poultry, and tropical dishes. Pair your glass with a summer salad, chicken fettuccine, or a roasted butternut squash.
- Pinot Grigio—These wines are crisp, light-bodied, and often acidic. You may taste pear or melon undertones, and few tannins. Because of its sweetness and acidity, you can pair it with more acidic foods. Stay away from sweet dishes or red meat. Try your glass of pinot grigio with oysters, an avocado salad, or linguini & clams.
- Riesling—Rieslings are typically crisp, medium-to-full-bodied, and acidic. They’ll often boast apple or citrus undertones and may be dry or sweet, depending on the region they’re from. The wine pairs well with an Asian chicken salad, citrus shrimp, or a pork tenderloin.
Champagne & Sparkling Wines
- Champagne—Champagnes are famous for their bubbles, but they often have flavors of apple, citrus, pear, or vanilla. They can be extra dry, dry, or fairly sweet, and each pairs well with a variety of foods. Most champagnes pair well with cheeses, appetizers, poultry, and desserts. Pair your champagne with smoked salmon, strawberry cheesecake, or freshly shucked oysters.
Now that you’re an expert on wine pairings, it’s time to put your skills to the test! Stop by our wine bar at Stuft Pizza Bar & Grill for lunch, dinner, or happy hour. Click below to view our wine list for inspiration!