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Pairing Wine With Food 101: A Beginner's Guide

20 August 2018
Kevin Hartley

Have you ever dreaded throwing a dinner party because you feared humiliation over a poor wine selection? You're not alone, but you don't need to be a connoisseur to host a luxurious dinner party complimented by the perfect wine! You just need to equip yourself with the right set of skills.

When to Use Red Wine

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Red wine is generally a good choice with red meats and complex or hearty preparations. Different types of red wines provide unique highlights to particular foods. At times different wines can occupy more than one niche.

Bold Reds

Bold red wines burst with flavor. These wines are ideal for big game meats as their boldness will not overwhelm the meal. Classic examples are venison and bison. Boldly flavored red wines also work very well barbecued ribs and beef roasts. The explosive flavors of the wine and the food are complimentary.A nice Malbec or Shiraz is an ideal choicefor many of these types of dishes.

If you are looking to compliment red, succulent meats, Cabernet Sauvignons are perfect. Dishes like steaks, lamb and beef brisket go well with these full-bodied wines. Wines rich in tannin also compliment duck and coq au vin. Finally, try these wines with hard cheeses and grilled burgers. These pairings work so well because the wines and foods are very similar in density.

Medium Reds

It may seem obvious that medium red wines encompass those wines between bold or full-bodied and light. However, the distinction is not always so clear and many wines overlap. This is especially true between medium and light red wines.

Medium red wines have an acidic component that makes them delicious with many tomato-based pasta dishes and lighter meats like pork and chicken. They also compliment several of the herbs used in spicier Italian cuisine. Try a Sangiovese or a Garnacha the next time you serve pizza for dinner.

Light/Savory Reds

If you plan to serve a meal high in leafy greens,light red wines are the way to go. Fruity undertones lower the acidity of the greens. A spinach dish, which may overpower a white wine, creates a nice blend with a mildly sweet red wine. What about that prosciutto carbonara you have been dying to serve? Light red wines are nice options for cured meats.

Main courses loaded with onions, mushrooms or truffles better compliment a more savory light wine like Dolcettos, Burgundies, or Pinot Noirs. What is fabulous about light red wines is their versatility. They are mild enough to compliment foods traditionally served with white wines and yet sufficiently hearty to showcase traditional red wine delicacies. You can serve many of them with poultry, seafood and red meat.

When to Use White Wine

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White wine is best when paired with lighter dishes. If you need a touch of pizazz with scallops or lobster, you will want to select a white wine tailored for the occasion. Again, you will see different wines suitable for a range of dishes.

Light Whites

Light, dry white wines have a delicate flavor, and they do best with simple foods. Their acidity is balanced by slight sweetness or citrus undertones. These wines are ideal with fresh seafood like prawns or crab. They also compliment soft cheeses.A Sauvignon Blanc is a good choicefor a luxurious shellfish feast or a mild fish dinner. It is also an optimal wine to serve with most chicken dishes. A Pinot Gris, on the other hand, suits oilier fish like mackerel.

Light, sweet white wines are also delicate, but they can handle more complicated dishes. Sweet white wines typically harmonize well with mildly spicy food or salty, fried fish. If you decide to tackle a chicken curry Indian dinner, a sweet white wine like Riesling is just the ticket. Ultra-sweet white wines like Chenin Blancs can be served with very sweet desserts like a honeycomb. Regardless of the occasion, white wine is best when served chilled.

Sparkling Whites

Sparkling wines are more versatile than their lighter counterparts as they are not overwhelmed by the higher intensity of food. In fact, sparkling wines are often best enjoyed with salty snacks, fatty appetizers or sweet and spicy dishes. Fruitier sparkling wines are fantastic with Asian cuisine, specifically spring rolls. The crispness of Cava, on the other hand, pairs nicely with smoked salmon or caviar. Finally, you can try serving champagne with hors-d'oeuvres such as crab cakes or at a lavish banquet with lobster and risotto.

Heavy Whites

Oak aged Chardonnaysare in this category. These are still white wines but can handle more richness to foods than the lighter varieties. They are great for barbecued chicken, turbot, or grilled veal. They can even be served with eggs benedict or cheddar cheese. At last, Chardonnays are ideal for fatty fish or fish in heavy sauce.

In Summary

Wine pairing can be a fun aspect of entertaining friends and family. With some fundamental knowledge, you can turn an elegant dinner party into an exquisite night everyone will remember.

Thanks for reading. Questions or ideas for a future blog? Feel free to contact me here. 

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Kevin Hartley, Broker is a Toronto based real estate Broker with Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate | Signature Service, Brokerage. @Home is his lifestyle blog, an expression of his passion for home keeping though MAKING (Recipes), DOING (DIY), BEING (Health/Wellness) and DWELLING (Home Ownership, Sales & Maintenance).  Content not intended to solicit clients under contract.

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