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Food & Wine Pairing Tips

By The Staff

In the past, pairing food and wine wasn't merely a marriage, it was an arranged match between dynastic houses: red wine with meat and game, white with seafood and poultry. The "rules" mostly addressed wines' acidity and/or richness versus the four major tastes perceived on the tongue: salty, bitter, sweet, and sour (some make a case for spiciness as a fifth). Of course, who can figure out chemistry between people? Sometimes like prefers like, sometimes opposites attract. It's the same with wine and food. Think in terms of shared attributes (steak au poîvre with peppery Shiraz) and contrasts (sweetness counterbalances saltiness or spiciness---you'd be surprised how well an otherwise insipid White Zinfandel pairs and purrs with a fruit salsa or Thai food).

The Victorians enjoyed champagne with the meat course; a rack of lamb lends itself to everything from Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbaresco, and Syrah to a proper rosé to a crisp grassy Sauvignon Blanc. One reliable rule of thumb is to choose a wine from the same region as the dish. But as our tastes---not to mention fusion (or, in many cases, CONfusion) cooking styles---have become more sophisticated, the potential for matchmaking crosses as many viticultural and geographic borders as the Euro. Of course, if you find the "perfect match," stick with it---but fidelity is not necessarily the shining ideal when mating food and wine. Even if you believe we all have just one true love out there, keep experimenting. It's the best way to expand your wine horizons.

Think of wine as food. This is one marriage where you want co-dependency. When you cook you'd match ingredients carefully in a dish so they harmonize or provide a counterpoint without overwhelming each other; it's the same principle when pairing wine with food. Yes, even if you can't boil water or only do take-out Chinese.

MOST IMPORTANT. It's your taste that matters, so serve whatever you like. If you like Pinot Noir, the wine equivalent of slipping on a Victoria's Secret negligee, throw it at spicy Indian food. Wine is fun and meant to be shared. Enjoy!