One of the great things about wine is that there's always more to learn. Once you know your Pinot Grigio from your Sauvignon Blanc, there's a whole world of food pairings to be explored.
So, how do you go about pairing wine with food? A great way to begin—and to have some educational fun in the process—is to host a tasting party. Consider presenting either hors d'oeuvres "courses" or a buffet of small dishes, then serving a suggested wine with each. Type up small cards describing each wine and explaining why it enhances or is complemented by the flavors in each dish.
And don't forget the extras. A great way to liven up the party is to include interesting and unique corkscrews and wine openers. They can make opening each bottle more fun and really keep the conversations going.
There is a ton of information out there online and in the gourmet aisle of your bookstore, helping you pair wine and food for parties and your nightly meals. One great resource we found is foodandwinepairing.org, which will help you ideally match wine with food and vice-versa. But just to get you started, here are some ideas:
- While you'd think that fresh green veggies would call for a fresh green wine, in this case opposites attract—serve up a classic crudité platter with a full-bodied Chardonnay.
- Smoked salmon is wonderful with wine, but you'll want to avoid fruity or "woody" wines (think West Coast Pinot Grigios and Sauvignon Blancs). Choose a dry, acidic wine, such as a champagne or French Chablis to accompany a smoked salmon platter or paté.
- We all know wine goes well with cheese, but since every different cheese has its ideal wine pairing, trying to match them up can be daunting. Break it down by serving a selection of two or three cheeses that pair well with a single wine. Hard Italian cheeses (parmesan, asiago), pair well with bold Italian wines, like Chianti. Soft French cheeses (brie, camembert, goat cheese) are ideal partners to Beaujolais. Milder semi-hard cheeses (colby, cheddar, gouda) are great served alongside a Cabernet Sauvignon.
- Don't forget chocolate! Serve truffles, fondue or a chocolate mousse with a hearty Zinfandel or Cabernet. Dark chocolate also pairs well with a sweet Port for a classic dessert combo.
Once you've got your bearings in the basics, it's time to experiment and discover for yourself which food and wine pairings you prefer. While we all know that you’re supposed to serve white with fish and red with beef, there are really no hard and fast rules—take some risks and see for yourself what kind of flavor combos you can come up with.
Do you have any suggested or surprising food and wine pairings? How about wine recommendations for classic dishes?