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Mastering Food and Wine Pairing

When it comes to pairing food and wine, you may be one who mindlessly matches your dish with any red wine or white wine, or one that carefully focuses on balancing food flavors with the perfect libation. No matter which you are, having a basic knowledge of the ways to successfully pair wine with your food can truly enhance your dining experience.

Tips for Food and Wine Pairing

You don’t have to be an avid reader of Wine Spectator to know which red wine or white wine you like. But do you know which is the best wine with steak? Or how about the best selection for a creamy shrimp Alfredo? It really comes down to balance. Choosing a glass or two of wine to go with your dish is easy if you follow a few basic rules.

1. Understand fat content
If you’re like most people, some of your favorite meals have high levels of fat. Bigger foods and flavors demand bolder wines. Creamy dishes and meats both have a high fat content, but wine does not. That means the wine you choose has to use acid to balance the fat with levels or have high alcohol content to match the richness. This is why a nice red wine like Cabernet or Merlot is the best wine with steak. The protein and fat in a beef like a big roast beef or prime rib set up your taste buds for the wine’s berry and forest flavor to complement the smoky taste of the meat. If you’re about to eat a creamy Alfredo dish or chicken, choose a Pinot Noir or Chardonnay.

2. Don’t forget acidity
Acid is a key component of both food and wine. Think about what happens when you add a squeeze of lemon to a nice piece of fish. It adds a big of zing, freshness and lift to the dish. The same goes for wine. So if you’re looking for the right wine to go with that piece of tilapia or a salad with a vinegar-based dressing, make sure the acidity of the wine is equal to that dish—otherwise the wine will seem bland. A high-acid white wine like a Sauvignon Blanc or Sémillon is an excellent choice.

3. The secret to salt
Salty, fried foods may seem to limit your wine choices, but the pros at Wine Spectator will tell you that that’s not exactly true. While it can make the oaky taste of a Chardonnay taste strange or a high-alcohol red wine taste bitter, a sparkling wine will do wonders for a salty dish. Much like beer, sparkling wines feature carbonation and yeasty acids that clean the salt from your palate, while adding textures and flavor subtleties.

4. A sweet treat
When it comes to wine and food pairing, sugary foods and sweet dishes can pull the sweetness out of sweet wine. Keep in mind that there are levels of sweetness, with some dishes just having a hint of sugar—like a light fruit drizzle over pork. In this case, this simple touch of sweetness will match well with a rich white wine like Chardonnay. As for dessert, make sure the wine tastes sweeter, otherwise it will just taste tart. While red wine and chocolate is a combination touted by the experts like Wine Spectator, you must be knowledgeable about which to choose. Zinfandel is a great option for bitter, dark chocolate. But with a sweet chocolate, a dry wine will taste off.

While following these simple tips will enhance your eating experience, you can also just follow one simple rule.  Don’t upstage the star. If you’re in the mood to finally open that amazing bottle of wine you’ve been saving for years, don’t choose a wildly complex food dish to eat with it. On the other hand, if your food is to be the center of attention (like when you’re about to enjoy a hundred-dollar cut of filet mignon and want the best wine with steak) choose a simple bottle following these tips to bring out the flavor and you won’t be disappointed. Cheers!

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