MidCitiesOnline.com Bob Miller

Food and Wine Pairings



Though each individual has their own unique preferences and predilections to both food and wine, making the experience truly personal here are some recommendations that we have run across.  Take them for what they are, recommendations.

Strong wines for strong food dishes. Dishes with modest fat content and lower acidity prefer either full-bodied, low acid white wines, or full-bodied, lightly tannic red wines. Rich dishes with higher fat content from oil, butter, cream, prefer lean, acidic white wines, and/or lightly acidic, full flavored red wines, depending on the nature of the dish. Dishes highly acidic, from vinegar, lemon, tomato, or capers, prefer acidic wines. Sweet desserts prefer wines of equal or greater intensity of sweetness.

The general rule is to find wines and foods that complement, rather than compete with each other. Match the weight and intensity of the food with a wine of comparable weight and intensity of flavor. It always comes down to having to choose a specific wine for a specific dish. The better the dish the better the wine. The better the combination, the better the meal.

The wine served should not overwhelm a light or delicate dish. It is better to find a neutral flavored wine, with delicate nuances that will support and not mask or shadow the flavors in the food. Some wines are excellent at this, not too exciting to drink on their own, but outstanding at showing the best food has to offer. Many chefs will only allow second-tier wine at their restaurants to ensure that the food is the star. But there are times when the primary attention is to the wine. If a complex bottle of well-aged wine is to be showcased, food is best kept simple, low on spices and neutral, in order not to interfere with or overpower the wine.

The best accompaniment for a fine, well-aged bottle of wine may be some fresh French bread and a piece of simple cheese. Aged and complex wines deserve the attention of what it has to offer.

Exciting the palate becomes a matter of balance of flavors against flavors. Spicy food demands wine that are either massively fruity, like bold young Shiraz, or spicy like Gewürztraminer, or aromatic like Riesling, an old vine Zinfandel with grilled meats or herbaceous like Sauvignon Blanc (hot and spicy hates acids, and is usually better with beer). Wines that have both sweetness and tartness going at the same time (like Rieslings, Chenin Blancs or late harvest dessert wines) can stand up equally well to both oriental dishes and a variety of cheeses.

One of the best-known rules is to pair red wine with meat; white with fish. Usually, the darker and fuller flavored the meat the darker and fuller flavored the wine needs to be. Grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo, Syrah and Merlot are obvious choices for red meats and game; Syrah/Shiraz with lamb, and Pinot Noir, Grenache (Rhone) or a Tempranillo (Spain) with pork and game birds.

With white wines, light varieties like dry Rieslings or dry Chenin Blanc with shell fish and sole; heavier Chardonnays and Semillons with snapper, swordfish, tuna, salt water fish. But for every food rule there will be at least one exception. Typically, you should only drink white wine with fish, but red Pinot Noir works with salmon, swordfish or tuna. Red wine goes best with meat, but Chardonnay goes well with chicken or veal and dry Riesling with pork, turkey and Gewürztraminer with spicy sausage.

Our advice, match your pleasures with your tastes and don't fear to experiment.

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