Why are you friends with the people you are friends with? Stay with me here. I promise this is related to wine.
You might have a friend that is a lot like you, you have a ton in common and share similar beliefs.
Or maybe you have a friend who is nothing like you, who is your polar opposite, someone who is constantly challenging you and opening your mind to new things.
Food and wine pairing is basically the same concept.
Bottom line? Think compliment and contrast.
You either want the food and wine to share similar flavors and textures (compliment one another) or you want the food and wine to have opposing flavors and textures (contrast one another).
A classic pairing is peanut butter and jelly. These are two delicious things when eaten separately—peanut butter’s salty goodness and jelly’s intense sweetness. But when you put them together? BOOM. A whole new layer of awesome. The saltiness and the sweetness are a perfect match. This is how I would like you to think about food and wine. They enhance one another.
Here is an example I like to use in my classes: Let’s say you are out to dinner and you have a beautiful piece of flounder on your plate. What might you squeeze on the top of the fish before you eat it? Lemon. Why? The lemon has acid and the acid brightens the entire meal. This is why a great wine pairing for flounder or seafood in general, is a nice acidic white wine like Sancerre, Muscadet, Chenin Blanc, Albariño, (the list goes on).
Or maybe you have some steaks and burgers on the grill. These red meats have a lot of fat and protein, so what wines come to mind that bring that kind of full body and can stand up to the intensity of the meat? You guessed it, a high-powered red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, or Malbec (the list goes on).
The above two examples show you food and wine that compliment one another. So what does a contrasting pairing look like?
If you love spicy food like I do, think about pairing that Indian or Thai cuisine with a wine that is the opposite of spicy. I love an off-dry Riesling or off-dry Vouvray to bring that touch of sweetness.
If you have a rich, buttery macaroni and cheese, you can either compliment with a rich, creamy Chardonnay or you can go in the opposite direction with a razor sharp white wine to cut through the creaminess (maybe a Sauvignon Blanc or a nice sparkling wine).
Some other quick pairing tips are:
-Try to match the flavor intensity of the food with that of the wine.
-If you are eating desserts, make sure the wine is always sweeter than the food.
-If you are eating foods with a lot of acid, make sure the wine is more acidic than the food.
The Internet is a vast resource for classic food and wine pairings, so the next time you are purchasing wine, really stop and give thought to what foods you will be having with it. There are no right or wrong answers but I am telling you, when you experience a truly amazing food and wine pairing for the first time, you will have an ah-ha moment and never look back. Food and wine are the universal handshake.