Guide to wine pairings
The best red wine pairings
The best red wine and food pairing depends on whether your wine is light or bold. You don’t have to pair a red wine only with red meat; in fact, a light red wine will pair best with lighter dishes, like salad or even seafood. You can serve a bolder red wine with a more intense dish like steak, lamb, or stew, and you should also consider the varietal of red wine that you’re pairing. Fortified wines are usually the only types of wines that can be served with very sweet desserts because they are equally sweet. Earthy wines tend to taste best with savory dishes, while fruity, light wines pair well with lighter dishes or dishes that are slightly bitter. The key to success is to match the wine’s body to the texture of the food, and to highlight the flavors that you want to bring out in the food. Learn more.
The best white wine pairings
Almost every kind of food can pair with white wine, as long as you consider the wine's intensity and flavors. Generally, bold white wines will pair best with bolder dishes, like curry or stew, whereas light white wines and mature wines require mild foods with fewer ingredients. You can either complement or contrast your food pairings--to complement a sweet food or dessert, choose a sweet wine. However, the most exciting food pairings are contrasts. An acidic wine can cut through the sweetness of a cream-heavy dish, while a sweet wine will balance out a spicy curry. When you choose the right pairing, white wines can do amazing things for your food, and many people find white wine and food pairings even more exciting than pairings with red wine. Learn more.
Comparing complementary versus contrasting pairings
I’ve been to countless wine tastings and dinner parties in my lifetime, and I’ve noticed one peculiar thing: some hosts love to make wine pairings that complement the food, while others love to contrast wine with the food, and few, if any, mix the two tasting styles together. With a complementary pairing, the food and the wine are very similar in flavor profile, but with a contrasting pairing, the food and the wine are polar opposites. In my experience, the type of wine tasting you prefer depends on your personality. Most of my over-achieving, perfectionist friends love a good complement wine pairing, while my creative-minded friends lean toward contrasting wine pairings. Learn more.
Quick and easy champagne pairings
Whenever I’ve entered sommelier food pairing competitions, there’s usually one rule: no Champagne. No matter how much you might want to pair that fresh, herb-crusted rack of lamb with a dry, summery Krug rosé, you’re forced to pick a red wine instead. That’s because Champagne is a no-brainer wine for a food pairing; it’s easy to show a meal in its best light when you serve it with the right style of Champagne, and if we sommeliers had our way in these competitions, bubbly would be our default choice. Learn more.
Dessert wine pairing 101
One common mistake that wine enthusiasts make when they pair wine with dessert is that they often focus too strongly on the quality of the wine itself, rather than considering how that wine interacts with the dish. I once went to a Christmas party hosted by a Bordeaux collector who served an aged bottle of bold Pomerol Merlot with a delicate, handmade apple tart. The Merlot completely overpowered the dessert, but the host insisted on serving it anyway because he wanted his guests to try the rare wine. Learn more.
The art of pairing wine with music
Wine and music pairings are a relatively new focus in the wine world, and experts like Clark Smith are leading the way in research on the subject. Smith says, “We associate wine types with different moods, just as we do with music. When the wine and the music match, both improve. When they clash, it can be awful.” Pairing wine with music isn’t yet an exact science, and it still takes trial and error, but we’ll give you a few places to start. Learn more.