Most wine connoisseurs will tell you of horror stories they’ve witnessed of good wines being paired with antagonistic foods. Pairing wine properly according to your meal is an artform in itself, and many people, connoisseurs or not, take it very seriously. For beginners, you simply have to understand the basics in order to avoid the most commonly made mistakes.
First, trust your taste. Just because one person may feel that your favorite red wine doesn’t go well with their favorite meal does not mean you are wrong. Everything in the food world is a matter of preference, no matter how odd the combination may be. If you like it, enjoy it. The first step in pairing a wine perfectly is choosing a wine that you love.
The “body” of the wine is just as important as the flavor. A basic rule that should come as no surprise is that when eating richly flavored foods, you’ll want to match them with a rich wine. The same goes for delicate foods with light tastes being paired with lighter wines. A filet mignon for example, typically goes best with a merlot, pinot noir, or cabernet, as they are heavier, more boldly flavored reds. Most seafoods on the other hand, pair best with white wines. These can range from chardonnays, to champagnes, to different kinds of sauvignon blanc.
Consider the fat content in the dish that you are preparing. Heavier plates require lighter wines for a much more enjoyable meal. Wines with lower levels of alcohol tend to be much lighter than those with more. This also readable by the its color and grape variety. Low alcohol wines include moscatos, muscadet, and pinot grigio, while some of the heavier ones are pinot noir, malbec, merlot, and ports.
A wine’s acidity or sweetness also plays a factor when pairing. High-acid wines should be paired with acidic foods, unsurprisingly. Sauvignon blanc for example, goes well with salads that may contain acidic dressings, while beaujolais can accompany most cured meats. Sweeter wines pair well with, you guessed it, sweeter foods, and often go great with desserts. Riesling, moscato, and chenin blanc are all examples of fairly sweet wines.
Pairing wines can be an unnecessarily difficult process for those unfamiliar with the rules and guidelines, but a little bit of research can resolve any unfamiliarities you might have. The bottom line is, whatever your preference, taste is most important in creating an enjoyable meal for yourself and your guests.