Pairing Food And Wine

Nov 1, 2010
2010 / November 2010

When it comes to matching foods and wines, it’s not so much about white with white, red with red. It’s more about how the food is prepared and tastes. It is about guidelines, personal experience, individual taste and common sense. Add a few facts about how certain foods affect a wine, and you’ve opened up your choice to the wines of the world.

For instance, fatty foods need wines with higher acidity to cut through the fat and get to the flavor. South African Sauvignon Blanc, Spanish Albariño and the Loire’s Muscadet are good choices. Spicy foods exaggerate the tannin in a wine, so stay away from big reds. Instead, go for fruity or off-dry wines such as Riesling from Germany, Alsace or New York State; Chenin Blanc from France or South Africa; or Austria’s Grüner Veltlinter.

On the other hand, high-protein foods (meats, fowl) do well with high-tannin reds. The protein softens those tannins and brings out the wine’s flavors. Think Cabernet Sauvignon, Rioja, Brunello and Barolo. Salty foods emphasize the alcohol in wine, so pour one with lower alcohol such as Prosecco or California sparkling wine.

And what about that Thanksgiving turkey? Instead of a white-meat/dark-meat dilemma, think about the stuffing. A traditional bread and sausage stuffing would welcome Chardonnay or Viognier, among whites. For a red, go to Zinfandel, Côte du Rhône or a Cabernet Sauvignon from Bordeaux, California or Chile. Add truffles to the stuffing and open a Burgundy. And I know a number of wine-wise people who save their best vintage, fuller-bodied Champagne such as Bollinger to toast the bird.

Then there’s the pumpkin pie. One truism about wine with dessert is that the food should not be sweeter than the wine. They compete with each other and if dessert wins, the wine is neutralized. If you want wine with pumpkin pie, make it an off-dry or slightly sweet and full-bodied one; some Gewürztraminers fit the bill. What I like to do is enjoy the pie, take a breather, then enjoy the wine. Two desserts, two delights, each offering its all.


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