Basic Food and Wine Pairings

Pairing wine is always a challenge. No matter what occasion you are celebrating knowing what ingredients pair with what wines will help bring out the best in every dish. Here are some very basic pairings that will help you create the perfect culinary experience. Just remember to ensure that your pairings are in order of weight (lighter to heavier) so that the palette is not overwhelmed and flavors are not lost.

Champagne or Sparkling Wine: In addition to being a great aperitif, this is the fantastic choice when serving seafood, chicken, duck, veal, pork or eggs. The acidity is a perfect pair with a richer fish, such as Sea Bass, Mackerel, or Monkfish, or deep-fried foods. It is also a great match with raw fish such as sushi or oysters.

Key Flavors: Rich-Cream, butter, Earthy-mushrooms, leeks, Tart/Acidic-capers, dill, olives, citrus, Spice-curry, ginger, cayenne.

Cheeses: Hard (Parmesan), Salty (Feta), or Rich (triple cream)

Sauvignon Blanc: Typically after the hors d’oeuvres, the first course is usually a soup or salad of some sort. This is a great choice with a hearty soup or creamy vegetable puree. A salad with a vinaigrette or a fresh salsa would work to complement the acidic and spicy ingredients. It pairs perfectly with fresh basil, tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella. This wine may be too intense for some on it’s own so make sure that it is paired with food or cheese. This does not pair well with savory dishes that are semi-sweet (roasted garlic, sweet onion, or root vegetables). If that is your dish, substitute a Chardonnay.

Key Flavors: Citrus-orange, lemon, lime, dairy-sour cream, creme fresh, yogurt, Tart/Acidic-dijon mustard, capers, olives.

Cheeses: Ricottta, Buffalo Mozzarella, Swiss, Goat, Brie or Fontina

Pinot Noir: This is a great varietal and even better with rabbit, coq au vin, duck, squab, pheasant, quail, sweetbreads, lamb, tuna, swordfish or pork. You can grill it, smoke it, char it, wok it, or bake it.

Key Flavors: Earthy-cooked greens, fennel, squash, truffle, mushrooms (Chantrelle, Crimini, Porcini, Morel), beets, lentils, sweet onions, shallots, Fruit- berries, cherries, tomato (sun dried or roasted), Spices- fennel, ginger, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, pepper.

Cheeses: mild and creamy such as Aged Cheddar, Brie, Teleme, or Goat. A charcuterie plate would be perfect with this!

Cabernet: Now this is a big gun so bring a big dish. Pair this with a beautiful, buttery, peppered, grilled steak with bitter greens such as radicchio or braised escarole. It will pair with any fatty dish, beef dish such as pot roast, venison, duck, squab, pork or veal dish. Grill it, plank roast it, braise it, or smoke it.

Key Flavors: Nuts-Walnuts or pecans, Tart/Acidic-balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, black olives, green olives, Earthy-truffles, mushrooms, Spice-black pepper. You can add a small amount of gorgonzola to your steak but be cautious; it is a strong cheese and may compete too much with the wine.

Cheeses: Mild to moderate in flavor. Choose a young Camembert, Brie, Aged Jack or Parmesan


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  2. [...] you are intimidated by pairing wine, here is a quick tutorial on how to pair wine with food in this Basic Food and Wine Pairings article. I have added wines to pair with the menu below as a back up for you as [...]

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