The purpose of pairing wine with food is to compliment and enhance the aroma and flavor of both the food and wine. In the past, the general rule of thumb was to pair red wine with red meat and white wine with white meat. Today, wine pairing is based on the components and flavors of the food being served.
There are a few basic guidelines to follow when pairing wine with food. First, pair the flavor of the wine with the flavor of the food being served. Pair delicate wines with delicate flavors, medium-bodied wines with medium to slightly intense flavors, and heavy-bodied wines with strongly flavored foods.
To make wine more compatible with foods, pair wines that imitate the flavor of the sauce. For instance, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel pair well with tomato-based sauces. Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon pair well with herb and mint sauces. Pinot Noir pairs well with mushroom sauces and Chardonnay pairs well with butter and cream sauces.
When serving wine with food, look for wines which are low in acidity as this will prevent the wine from overpowering the taste of the food. One way to mask the acidity is to serve red wine at a slightly cooler temperature and white wine at a slightly warmer temperature.
Sparkling wines are not typically served with food and reserved for consumption prior to or after the meal. Sweet wines are generally served with desserts.
The most common white and rose wine varietals include: White Zinfandel, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Fumé Blanc, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay.
The most common red wine varietals include: Gamay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel.
Perhaps the best method for pairing wine and food is to use your own palate. Experiment with different combinations to discover what makes a perfect pairing for you.