Wine and Food Pairings

With the holiday season approaching the question of serving the right wine with food always comes up. While a good wine will go with any food there are some basic guidelines that can help.

If you are bringing wine to a dinner party, don’t worry about trying to match the wine to the food, unless you have been asked to. Any good wine will work, but try to match the quality of the wine to the food. You’ll need a better bottle of wine for a four-course dinner than you will for burgers and chips.

Matching food with wine might take a little more thought at home. The old rule of reds with red meat and whites with fish and poultry work as a quick pick, but there is some fine tuning that can help balance the wine – food mix. Generally you should serve light wines with light flavoured dishes and full-bodied wines with flavourful dishes and you can serve different wines with different courses. You should also start out with lighter tasting wines and build towards full-bodied wines. Consider the acidity and level of tannin of the wine to balance it with the food.

Here is how you might put all of this together for your turkey dinner. If you’ll be serving the same wine for the whole meal then avoid a big full-bodied red or white. A medium bodied white or light red that you like should do the trick. If you want to serve two wines, then start with a light bodied white. If the salad is creamy, or has an oily dressing, then a wine with higher acidity will help cleanse the palate, so choose a Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling or Pinot Grigio. If the first course is a little sweet, then try an off-dry or sweet wine to compliment it. By serving a different wine with the main course you can move to a more full bodied wine with lower acidity, like a Chardonnay or Gewürztraminer. With a prime rib or steak main course, a big tannic Barolo, Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon would work. And a nice finishing touch could include a sweet fruit wine or ice wine with dessert.

If you’ve got the stemware, serving each wine in a different glass adds a touch of class to the evening, and believe it or not the size and shape of the glass can affect the taste of the wine. White wineglasses are generally smaller than reds because the reds tend to benefit more from exposure to oxygen to soften the tannins. That’s why you only fill them half full, to the widest part of the bowl, to maximize the amount of surface area of the wine. Reds will also benefit from decanting up to two hours before serving to allow the wine to breathe. The shape of the bowl of a glass can even make a difference because glasses with relatively straight sides will deliver the wine to the front of the tongue where you detect sweetness. A rounder, bowl shaped glass will “toss” the wine further back into the mouth, suppressing the sweetness.

The most important thing to remember is that the most important thing is the friends and company you’re with. Any wine that you like will help make the meal more enjoyable. Wine and food pairings is an ever evolving art with no rules, only suggestions.

Blog provided by: Ray Vezeau, owner of Chateau Vezeau Wines, a ferment on premises winemaking facility in Brooklin.