Want some wine with that?
Let me get this straight - that’s Sangiovese with osso buco, Cabernet with steak, and Tempranillo with tapas. But wait, what about shrimp scampi? Chardonnay? Blanc du Bois? If I’m supposed to drink a red with hearty dishes and a white with fish, what do I drink with a hearty mussel stew? This whole pairing thing can be exhausing!
Sound familiar? With so many varietals available to choose from, how do we go about pairing the right wine with the right food? And does it even matter? The short answer is yes, it does matter, but unless you are studying for that sommelier exam, you do have some leeway. Rule of thumb is that you want to pair bold wines with bold food, so that neither overshadows the other. For a delicate stuffed flounder, you don’t want to serve a large peppery Zinfandel. Your taste buds would be dancing on the table with the Zin and the flounder would be the unnoticed wall flower in the corner reading a novel. The same is true for your Aunt Francesca’s zesty lasagna. A Viognier would get lost in there.
The first thing to remember when pairing food and wine is that you should drink what you like. While Francesca might be partial to Sangiovese, you may prefer a good hearty Cab or even a smokey Tempranillo. The fruit flavors in a Pinot Noir make it an excellent choice for berry-based sauces on pork, as well as heartier fish dishes. You might also try a Merlot with that Mussel stew. Even if you remember the movie, Sideways, a good Merlot is still the go-to wine of the masses. For lighter dishes, a Blanc du Bois, Viognier or a Roussanne make excellent choices to pair with chicken or shellfish (there’s your scampi solution).
As summer approaches and you are looking for that perfect afternoon sipping wine with cheese, try a dry Rosé. Rose’ can be quite versatile, from snacks right on through the entrée to dessert. Blanc du Bois with its acidity is also a fine choice to accompany most cheeses.
If you are really trying to impress someone with your pairing expertise, get some advice from someone in the know, like your friendly Wine Ambassador at Bent Oak Winery. Another good option is a store that specializes in wine such as Total Wine and Spirits. Tell them what’s for dinner and ask for recommendations. Try to get a sample if possible before buying something you’re not familiar with. If you can’t, then explain to the expert what types of wine you like. Nothing is worse than putting out a lot of cash for a wine you find out you hate. There’s a good reason to buy several bottles – for research!