December 29, 2012

Wine Pairings Demystified

‘Tis the season to be entertaining, and what good entertainer doesn’t serve good food and great wine?  Whether it is bringing over a bottle of wine as a hostess gift, or deciding which wine to pair with the food in preparation for our own get together for NYE, I wanted to put a little research into which wines pair best with which foods.

Cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel
These full-bodied reds generally complement rich dishes. Classic pairings for cabernet include braised, roasted, or grilled lamb or roast beef, and desserts with chocolate as an ingredient. Zinfandels pair with foods similar to those served with cabernet. You can also pair zins with creamy pasta sauces, barbecue, and even pizza.

Richer chardonnays with heavier doses of wood extract pair well with poultry in cream or butter sauces, dishes with herbs (oregano, mustard, cloves, ginger, and sage), lobster in butter, other shellfish, and seafood platters and stews. Simple, tart, fruity chardonnays complement finger foods, sushi, raw bar, or plain grilled fish.

Chenin blanc
Dry style chenin blancs pair well with Asian food and herbed or grilled fish or chicken. Softer, off-dry-style chenin blancs go with spicier Asian dishes and barbecued food.

This simple, fruity wine can be paired with casual snack foods such as pizza and burgers, but more complex varieties do best with richer foods such as beef (steak, barbecue, stews) or mushroom risotto.

Fairly rich wines, these pair well with broiled, roasted or grilled meat and chicken, meaty, firm, hearty fish such as Ahi tuna, savory side dishes such as winter squash, yams, and hearty portabella mushrooms, nuts, rich sauces with herbs (garlic, rosemary, thyme, and tarragon), aromatic vegetables such as fennel and onion, and rich foods such as lasagna and cheese.

Pinot grigio/pinot gris
Those of the drier, lighter-bodied style pair well with lighter dishes: less-seasoned and less-sauced seafood, and shellfish. More bold pinot gris wines can take on richer and heavier dishes, such as seafood with butter sauce, salmon, veal dishes with light sauces, egg rolls and spring rolls, citrus-accented foods, sauces and seasonings including garlic, onion, mustard, and vinegar, sour-cream- and yogurt-based foods, salads with savory elements such as bacon, and pasta with cream, butter, or pesto.

Pinot noir
This lighter red especially complements roast beef, broiled, roasted or grilled meat, chicken, oily or fatty fish such as salmon, and savory, rich, herbed foods. This is my personal favorite!

Prosecco can be off-dry and fruity. It pairs well with many foods, including finger foods and sushi.

With their combination of fruit notes and pleasing acidity, Rieslings can go well with spicy Asian dishes, roast chicken or pork, grilled sausages and seafood, and fruit and cheese plates. They're also great choices as a finishing wine.  This is my hubby's fav!

It might have a touch of sweetness and fruit flavor that stands up to savory or spicy foods. Or it might be drier and leaner, with an acidity that would pair well with sushi, grilled, stewed, or smoked seafood, or barbecued meats. It's best served chilled.

Sauvignon blanc
This white wine pairs well with poultry dishes, including roasted chicken and turkey with herbs, pasta in cream sauce, baked fish, and grilled shrimp, raw bar, and steamed clams and mussels. It also works well with spicy Asian food and Spanish tapas.

Sparkling wines
These pair well with hors d'oeuvres, soup and salad, mild cheeses, and light desserts. 

It pairs well with smoked meats, spicy Thai, or other Asian foods, and seafood dishes.

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