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Food and wine pairing basics

wine glassPersonal taste is such an individual and subjective issue – who could really claim to be an expert on food and wine pairing? I can suggest the best pairing options, but your personal taste might dictate you otherwise.An incredible wine that I might admire, you may not care for at all. We all have different personal preferences. But you still want to make right choices for your special dinner with wine. Let me capture few details to keep in mind, when shopping for wine:

1. Rule # 1 – there are NO RULES!
Yes, there could be a great red wine that matches your fish meal even though “the rules” said – white wine with fish. Also, if you don’t appreciate red wine at all, don’t pressure yourself to match it with your pork roast or steak. There are rich white alternatives that could satisfy you.

2. Always consider your own favorite taste preferences
If you always prefer sweeter wines, you are most likely not going to enjoy a super dry, crisp white – even though it matches the food perfectly. However, if you are eager to discover a whole new world for yourself – there is a hope. It is possible to train your taste buds! Remember what you usually prefer – and good wine associate will be able to suggest a new wine that has a similar style. Try new wine on your own first, before you bring it to your holiday table or party!If you know that you are likely not open minded to experience with new wine, stick with your proven favorite to satisfy your taste buds no matter what anybody say.

3. Basics that work most of the time:

When choosing right wine, you can go either with the flavor profile of your meal or totally against it. Your choice!

  • the more acidic the dish, the drier wine you need to match it with. Salad with vinegar needs crisp, dry, unoaked white wine to pair (Pinot Grigio, Torrontes, Italian whites like Fiano or Soave, Spanish whites, white Bordeaux or Sancerre etc.).
  • Super spicy dishes (such as Indian cuisine, spicy Chinese or Japanese cuisine etc.) pairs very well with sweetness of German Rieslings.
  • Seafood or white fish works best with light fresh white wine. Creamy sauce will give your meal more body, so reach for heavier wine to go with it. If you serve stuffed shrimp, oaky, fuller body Chardonnay would be a great choice. A glass of acidic Pinot Noir for red wine lovers would work with seafood too!
  • Italian dishes loves Italian wines, red or white – period. Match made in heaven! If you don’t have Italian wine on hand, Spanish, Portuguese, French or New Zealand will work just fine. Yes, most European wines are generally more acidic (therefore food friendlier) than their American cousins. As to every rule there are exceptions, of course.
  • If you like big reds such as Cabernet, super Shiraz, Chateauneuf du Pape or big Bordeaux blends, match it with aged cheeses or a nice piece of steak. Anything rich, big and spicy off the grill will do.
  • If preparing cheese platter to match with wines, choose aged cheeses for heavier, richer wines and light, mild fresh cheeses to match with whites. For some reason, blue cheese could kill taste and structure for many red wines when tasted together
  • I typically like to match deserts with desert wines or port. There are plenty of choices. Rich chocolate is a good match for rich red wines though. Although I am personally not a fan of pairing wine with anything sweet, I have tasted some great matches of red wine with a good quality, high cocoa chocolate.If you don’t like desert wines, the wise choice would be to offer a different after dinner drinks (called digestive). It could be an Italian Limoncello, cognac, brandy, sweet liquor like Amaretto, Baileys or what ever you personally prefer.The best way to complete a good meal for me personally is a cup of nice espresso with a touch of Sambuca – a ‘liquid sugar’, as we call it among my Italian friends.

    Have fun with wine and food pairing!

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