Very few of us would label ourselves as “wine snobs,” and even fewer of us have the wine knowledge or highly trained palate to be considered true connoisseurs. Wine is similar to food in many ways, but one of the biggest parallels between them is that there’s an ever-expanding, constantly evolving body of knowledge surrounding each of the topics. There is, and always will be, more to learn. From geography, climate and production methods, to processing, storage, preparation and consumption, the nuances of food and wine are intrinsically bonded.
Luckily for the common consumer, enjoying wine is quite a simple process, independent of the body of information that surrounds it. We all know what we like personally, and aside from that, very little else matters. On top of that, with the gigantic number of wine producers trying to satisfy the current worldwide demand, there’s plenty to choose from at a very reasonable price. Armed with a $20 bill and a few simple pointers regarding delicious fermented grape juice, anyone can leave the store with a fantastic bottle of wine that will perfectly compliment your meal or occasion.
So, why all of the fuss about properly pairing wine with food? Well wine is, historically, intended to be drank with food. Its ancient origins demand it. Each sip should make you want to take another bite and vice versa. So, let’s get to sippin’ some vino.
Traditionally, when we think of red wine, we think steak. Me? A big fatty ribeye. Red wine pairs so nicely with red meat because of the tannins in the wine. Tannins are what give your mouth that dry feeling after the wine is swallowed. Coupled with the rich, oily and fatty nature of steak, charcuterie and poultry, it forms a sort of give-and-take relationship on the palate. A bit of one makes you want to go back for more of the contrasting, complimenting other. A big, bold California cabernet is a great go-to for any carnivorous occasion, but don’t overlook many of the less popular (and extremely tasty) genres, such as malbec, syrah, tempranillo and zinfandel.
When it comes to white wines like chardonnay, pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc, many people tend to prefer seafood, salads or roasted vegetables. These light, refreshing and chilled wines tend to pair well with lighter fare and are also a great way to start off the dining experience before the food hits the table. It should also be noted that champagne or sparkling wine pairs wonderfully with nearly every cuisine and every occasion. No need to wait for a birthday or anniversary, the perfect time for champagne is tonight. Really though, let’s end this common misconception and pop some bottles!
All of that said, many of the rules of wine pairing and etiquette are, as I said before, constantly evolving. There’s no reason that you wouldn’t or shouldn’t enjoy a big glass of merlot with your seared ahi tuna. Everyone’s palate is unique, and there’s no wrong way to drink wine if it’s tasting good to you. Cheers!