One of the most integral parts of the wine experience is pairing it with food. While most people have heard, “white with fish, red with meat”, those aren’t steadfast rules and there are other creative, simple ways to pair food with wine. There are also extensive, intricate ways to pair what’s on your plate with what is in your wine glass, but often you can get to the same result of “WOW” by using one of these methods.
The most important rule – one which supersedes every wine “rule” you’ll ever hear – drink what you like. If it tastes good to you, that is all that matters. If you personally enjoy a thick porterhouse steak with a buttery, oaky Chardonnay… Go for it. We’re not here to judge. With that out of the way, here are some ways to pair wine with your next meal.
Region with Region
This is one of my favorite ways to pair a wine with a meal. I worked in an Italian restaurant for a few years with a Chef who really focused on area-specific dishes. Mozzarella di bufala from Campania, or prosciutto di Parma from Parma for a couple examples. Whether it is due to the terroir (the environment in which the wine is produced, including climate, soil and topography) or other reasons, picking a wine from the same area always was a big hit when doing wine tastings and pairings. The Mozzarella di Bufala in a Caprese tasted even creamier with a Fiano di Avellino – a white wine from nearby Avellino (if you haven’t figured it out by now, “di” in Italian means “of” or “from”). In that same amazing dish, the acidity from the wine also enhanced the acidity in the tomatoes. Although regional pairing with Italian dishes is my favorite, you can play this game with any wine-producing region. I grew up in the Hudson Valley region of New York and while the area is known for its
world-class foie gras, it is also home to the oldest wine region in the country. The wineries in the area have had a renaissance as of late and some of the better Cabernet Francs grown there would be a worthy pairing for the rich, decadent foie gras. You also don’t need to be hyper-specific like these examples. Having some paella? Have a spicy Spanish wine. Eating French this evening? Have a Bordeaux or Burgundy.
Color With Color
You can do some deep dives pairing food and wine based on region. If you’d like an easier way to choose, base it on similar color! This is similar to the red meat, red wine; white fish, white wine theory in the intro, but takes it a step further. Are you doing a light-colored pork dish? Pair it with a light red wine like a pinot noir or even a dry rose. Having some salmon? Wait – there isn’t any orange wine out there, is there? That’s ok – it’s a rich, bright color so maybe go with a rich, bright chardonnay. Personally, I LOVE light red wines with grilled salmon and that also falls into a similar color range. Meat and cheese plates are exponentially better when paired with wine and for a fun wine-tasting, match up a couple different wines and pair them with their similar-colored food. Then after tasting a few, switch it up and see how different everything tastes!
Price With Price
You decided to treat yourself and buy that US Prime Ribeye Steak you always walk past. Then you figure, “what the heck” and make it a Surf ‘n’ Turf with some King Crab Legs. Are you going to go home and open up your “Two-buck Chuck” to go with it or pour some cheap boxed wine? You’re treating yourself so keep going! Open up that bottle you’ve been saving for a rainy day. Heck, you’ll probably drink half of it before you even get done making dinner. (No? That’s just me? Ok, then.) On the flip side, is it a boxed mac’n’cheese night or maybe some grilled cheese and tomato soup? What about fast-food takeout? I won’t fault you if you pull a Miles Raymond and have a 1961 Cheval Blanc with your In ‘n’ Out, but maybe we save that beauty for another night, eh, sport? Have what frequent wine drinkers like to call a “daily drinker” on hand. We all have our favorite inexpensive wines. If you haven’t found yours yet, Trader Joe’s and Costco are two great places to find good wines for under $10/bottle.
Course With Course
Finally, you’re having a couple of friends over and making a few courses but you don’t want to deal with the hassle of picking the wines for the night. Easy! Start with the lightest in body and gradually get more bold and full-bodied as the night goes on. You just paired your wines with the evening’s food in three seconds. You just didn’t have as much fun doing it as everybody else on this list.