Pairing wine with food can be a challenging task. I don’t know about you, but most of the time I feel intimidated by the process. Anyone can do the white wine/white meat, red wine/red meat thing, but beyond that it can be tricky. Because wine is a natural product, it can vary from vintage to vintage. That specific Pinot Noir you paired with your favorite pork tenderloin, the one that blew your socks off, might not be quite the same experience the next year, and that can be frustrating. It can be easy to give up on the whole prospect of special wine/food combinations. In the end, many of us just drink what is around, and we miss out on the opportunity for some exploration and fun.
There are some simple strategies you can employ that will produce successful pairing results a majority of the time, and this book is one of my go-to references. I love The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wine and Food Pairing, by Jaclyn Stuart and Jeanette Hurt. It is a quick and handy source that provides a variety of pairing options. It is the antithesis of a snooty wine book, and I like that about it.
There are a few sections I use over and over again. There are chapters on red and white varietals with info about each grape and the best pairing options for that grape. There is a chapter on general pairing philosophies– acids like acids and intensity likes intensity, sweet likes sweet, etc, and I also enjoy the chapter on pairing by terroir. With most european food I find that to be the easiest strategy: foods from a certain region get paired with wines from the same region (e.g., paella with Tempranillo or pizza with Aglianico). There is also a suggested pairing list for more exotic cuisine like kimchi (off-dry Riesling, Beaujolais) and baba ghannouj (Pinot Gris, dry Rose’, sparkling wines)
For inventive chefs, the pairing list by ingredient, where wines are listed to match with flavors like caramel (Tawny Port, Madeira, Sweet Sherry, late harvest white wines), bacon (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Tempranillo) or even cucumber (Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc) is very useful. Another section I consult a lot is the Master Pairings List in the back of the book. There you will find a variety of dishes and a few wine suggestions for each. Here are some examples I still want to try: baked beans (Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, Nebbiolo), pierogies (dry Riesling, Chardonnay), and veggie burgers (dry Rose’, oaked Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot).
Try a new food/wine combination this weekend and let us know how it goes. I’m always interested in what you have to say.