Learn The Art Of Wine Pairing
Finding suitable wine pairings can be a daunting task, even for the most experienced chef. The good news is wine really only serves to enhance your meal and finding a good match will bring out the best flavors in your dish when done right. We’ve got some advice to guide you through the wine aisle as you shop for your holiday feasts this season.
Wine and food can either echo each other, or contrast. There is a kind of Yin and Yang to wine pairing. The ultimate goal is to find balance, where neither element overwhelms the other. Now it isn’t a hard and fast rule, but white wine is paired to contrast while reds can be paired congruently.
In this Two-Part Series, we’ll get you started on a path to becoming a pairing guru… or at least get you through this holiday season’s big meals without losing mind (we’ll leave that to your in-laws.)
Part 1: White, Sparkling, and Rosé Wine
We’ve consolidated a multitude of pairing rules down to three simple guidelines:
- Wine pairing should be more acidic than the food.
- Wine pairing should be sweeter than the food.
- Wine pairing should have the same flavor intensity as the food
The primary feature of most white wines will be the acidity, but also consider the sweetness and richness. We’ll work through the different courses and see where you can optimize flavor with the perfect white wine pairing.
Rosé combines the refreshing and crisp acidity of white wine with the fruity depth of reds. It’s a great go-to pairing for lighter fare, snacks, and appetizers.
If you’re opting for a cheese plate, a slightly sweeter wine may be in order. While red wines are optimal for stronger cheeses, mild cheeses like Brie or Camembert can be paired with a Moscato to offer a little relief from the heaviness.
A salad first course plays well with crispy light white wines. The green notes in Pinot Grigio compliment fresh vegetables and crunchy lettuce.
For any dish you would squeeze a lemon on, try a light white (aged in stainless steel, not barrels) for a bit of zestiness. The herby acidity of Sauvignon Blanc or Grüner Veltliner will enhance everything from a fish taco to a salmon steak.
If you’re an adventurous foodie with a flair for the spicier things in life, a slightly drier white wine such as Riesling or Chenin Blanc provides a slightly sweet note that will offset the fiery oils in your dish. The alcohol in wine intensifies spice, so white wine with lower alcohol content is the way to go for curries, pan-fries, or other Asian dishes.
Similarly to spice, alcohol will enhance salt and make food seem bitter. For your creamiest, salt heavy dishes, opt for a semi-dry like a Viognier or an unoaked Chardonnay for a little freshness that won’t result in overwhelming bitterness. Champagne or another sparkling wine is another option for salty, fried fare like fried chicken or macaroni and cheese. It’ll also give a fancy flair to an otherwise pedestrian meal.
For grilled poultry or late-summer vegetable dishes like red peppers and squash, rich whites are the way to go. Full-bodied Chardonnay will accentuate the fatty, rich, and savory profile of your dish. It’s so versatile you can even try it with a heavier seafood meal or a delicately flavored pork dish.
Dessert pairings can be slightly trickier as you don’t want to overwhelm the palate with sweetness, but serving your last course with wine rather than the traditional coffee or tea can make for a fireworks feast finale.
Fruitier desserts can handle a slightly more acidic wine pairing so for a fruity cheesecake or something similar, try a Sauvignon Blanc to cut through the cream and accentuate the freshness of the fruit.
Baked fruit desserts like apple go well with a white like Reisling that has a natural green crispness and a little spice but will still mirror the sweetness without overpowering.
Warm spice deserts like the seasonal pumpkin pie can be balanced with a sweet wine. Pairing a sweet white such Hungarian Tokaji will bring out the best flavors in both and complement the creaminess.
Lastly, if you’re out of steam from pairing every other course of your meal, you can always reach for a semi-dry bubbly. It will work with nearly any dessert and provide that fun and celebratory feeling at the end of a long meal.
If you made it through all the courses, you’re already well on your way to pairing like a pro! Look out for Part Two of this editorial, where we’ll discuss best practices for pairing red wines. For now, make sure you’ve stocked up on Cork Genius Wine Openers for all the bottles you’ll be popping in the weeks to come.