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Wine Pairing Basics

Nov 21, 2016 10:52AM ● Published by Caitlin Marshall

There’s never a shortage of social gatherings or fine dining opportunities here in Acadiana, especially during the holidays. However, unless you’re a connoisseur, you probably feel unsure about which wine to bring to the company party or a friend’s social, much less what to order when dining at your favorite spot. Pairing wine and food can be a bit . . . complicated. Below are some rules for the road to arrive at a successful, delicious combination.

The Basics

We’ve all heard the axiom: Red wine with meat; white, with fish or poultry. A good rule, generally – but in need of an update, and a twist of nuance. When serving wine with a meal, neither should overpower the other. Because food and wine stimulate your taste buds, and their combined flavors co-mingle and interact, it's important to strike a balance by matching intensity to flavor. If you combine well, you’ll enhance the subtle characteristics of your meal. For example, poached or steamed menu choices are considered delicate fare; therefore the wine should be delicate also.

New Rule: Pair light-bodied wines with lighter fare; full-bodied wines with richer or fattier options.

Dish Preparation

How you prepare a dish also give clues as to pairing. With a meal, wine behaves more like a spice. If serving multiple dishes or your recipe is complex, match the wine to the dominant flavor or spice. Sweeter foods accentuate a drier taste in wines, whereas acidic foods numb the taste buds to sourness, making the wine taste richer.

Opposites Attract

While complementing flavors are often a recipe for success, remember that opposites can also attract. For example, sweet wines married with spicy cuisine cut the heat and cleanse the palate.

TIP: If you reach for your water glass between each taste of food and wine, then the pairing is not working. Cut your losses and drink wine after dinner.

Looking for a starting point? Here are some fabulous combinations:

Red Wine Pairings (Dish – Wine)

Pork Chops - Pinot Noir
Wild Rice Salad - Cabernet
Duck Breast - Red Burgundy
Lamb Shanks - Beaujolais
Portobello and Red Pepper Burgers - Pinot Noir
Grilled Salmon - Pinot Noir
Roast Duckling - Merlot
Rack of Lamb - Cabernet Sauvignon

White Wine Pairings (Dish – Wine)

Avocado, Tomato and Spinach - Sauvignon Blanc
Mussels Provencal - Sauvignon Blanc
Mushroom Soup - Sauvignon Blanc
Cucumber, Squash or Corn Soup - Riesling
Tomato Gazpacho with Avocado and Lobster and White Bordeaux

Champagne and Sparkling Wine Pairings

Smoked Salmon and Caviar - Blanc Champagne
Chicken Liver Pate’ – Rose Champagne

No matter what the rule, don't be afraid to experiment. If you stick to what you like, you'll never be disappointed. Trust your own palate and enjoy! 

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