Well, actually, we all live and learn and eventually discover that nothing is “perfect”. But, if you have ever found yourself indulging in a rich, savory helping of foie gras while sipping on a Sauternes from Bordeaux, that’s as close to perfection as it gets. Wine and food were made for each other. There is no single choice of wine that absolutely has to be drunk with a certain dish, but some are definitely a better match than others. The old rule of “white wine with fish and red wine with meat” is for the most part, long gone. But, there are some very helpful and established guidelines for matching food with wine successfully (there is a reason why chocolate chip cookies go so well with milk and so badly with orange juice).
Like everything else in our lives, it’s all about balance. In order to achieve the best possible pairings you must think about the basic elements of taste in both the food and the wine. Try to balance these elements so that the food and wine do not overpower each other. Your first goal should be to try and match the weight of the food with that of the wine. Rich, heavy foods prefer wines with similar weight and body (hence the foie gras and Sauternes pairing). Lighter, delicate foods pair well with light-bodied wines, both white and red. Don’t be afraid to pair full-bodied white wines with certain meats, like pork or quail, sometimes, depending on the preparation, it can be a better choice than a light red wine. Also, light-bodied reds can pair very well with full-flavored meaty fish.
There are definitely other elements to consider. For example, you must think about how the food is being prepared, certain cooking techniques can alter the flavor of the food. Was the food grilled, roasted, fried or poached? What types of spices are being used, mild or intense? Is there a sauce, and is it heavy or light? Just remember: if the food has intense spices and a heavy sauce…pair with a heavier-style wine. If the food has mild spices and a light sauce…pair with a lighter-style wine. The end result: harmony.
Here are some classic pairings :
- Filet mignon with Cabernet Sauvignon (tannin loves protein)
- Roasted lamb with red Bordeaux
- Roasted or grilled meats with Syrah/Shiraz
- Oysters with Chablis or Muscadet
- Roquefort cheese with Sauternes
- Stilton cheese and walnuts with Port
- German Riesling with Parma ham
- Sparkling wine with pretty much anything!