Wine Pairing 101

14 09 2009

I am asked all the time “what is your favorite wine?”  My answer is almost always “It depends on what I’m eating.”  Only a few people have noticed the vague “non-answer” that I give.  The next most popular answer is “It depends on who I’m drinking with.”  Again, an indirect answer to say the least, but both answers are also very true.  To directly answer, I would say Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, Willamette Valley Pinot Noir or Brunello di Montalcino.  All three are long time favorites of mine.  Being a “cork dork”, my friends and family often ask me to pair wines for meals or for gifts.  I always ask about the food, the price and the people.

  1. The old rule of red with meat and white with fish isn’t a bad rule.  While I do find it too straight forward in today’s wine world, in most instances it will work out fine.  However, the more you learn about wine, thWine 3e more you can stretch and break this rule.
  2. Pick out a flavor in the food and match that flavor with a flavor in the wine.  Most wine labels will have descriptions on the back that will list some flavors in the wine.  An example would be matching the lemon that you squeeze on the grilled fish with the lemon peel flavor in Pinot Grigio.  Or matching the pepper flavor of a Steak auPoivre with the spiciness of a big Cabernet.  Once you master this, then you can start to explore the art of contrasting the flavors from the food to the wine.  Such as the fruitiness of a Reisling with the spicy Wasabi for your sushi.
  3. Drink what you like (or what your guests like)!  In every wine class I have taught, this is the first lesson.  If you don’t like a wine by itself, you probably won’t like it with food either.  You may find it more palatable, but that will probably be where it ends.
  4. You can find a good wine within your budget.  I’ve created dozens of wine lists all over the country and, without fail, there is that one bottle that is a steal on every menu.  I buy it at a discounted price or a new vintage is coming out or the supplier just needs shelf space…whatever the reason, I can pass along the savings.  I like to try to find that one “sale” bottle on every menu when I eat out.  If you are buying for a gift, I would say that for $10 to $15 in a wine shop, you can get a good bottle of wine for any occasion.  Most wine clerks are very helpful and will be happy to show you around.
  5. Know who you are buying for.  No matter if you are giving the wine as a gift or ordering for another couple at Wine 2the dinner table.  Don’t be shy to ask for help.  Saying that you know EVERYTHING there is to know about wine is like saying you know EVERYTHING about computers.  Nobody knows everything there is to know about either!  Asking your guests “do you “prefer red or white” is a great start to narrow down the list.  Once you have that established, enlist the help of the staff.  Take the “embarassment” out of the process and ask questions.  Most staff members will enjoy speaking about wine for a moment while you decide.  They may have a recomendation that isn’t on the menu.  Or they may know of that deal that the wine buyer put on the menu.

There they are.  Five simple ways to pair wine.  If you only think of the food, you may leave someone behind and if you only think of the people, you may tarnish the food.  If you tandemly think of both, you will be able to find a winner.  Don’t be shy, anyone in my industry is happy to talk shop with anyone who will listen.  Cheers!




One response

18 09 2009


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: