Wine and Food Pairing
Q & A From a Visitor From Bulgaria
As an etiquette professional for well over twenty years, I have been asked thousands of questions. Obviously, the majority are etiquette related and some are relationship based. However, as we see here, some concern entertaining, which makes it perfect for posting here.
Dear Polite One,
Can you please tell me what kind of dishes are best for serving with red wine?
Visitor from Sofia, Bulgaria
Dear Visitor from Sofia, Bulgaria,
There are many styles of wine, so this question is a bit difficult. First, the darker the wine, typically the fuller the body. The body style is the texture and weight of the wine, think skim milk, to heavy cream. Some lighter reds (Chianti or Beaujolais) have more acid which would pair with more food--heavier wines (Cabernet) usually don't.
Look for some fruit or pepper flavor because that would match with many dishes, such as a Pino Noir or a Cabernet Franc. I just had a lighter style Syrah, very much a Rhone style, and it had a blackberry flavor that went very well with a lightly seasoned prime rib, asparagus and roasted potatoes. However, an Australian, or Rhone style Syrah would go with just about anything that didn't have acidic tomato sauce--sautéed chicken, with dry tomatoes, (a few) capers, and cream.
Be careful about a wine that has a lot of oak flavor because it is difficult to pair; it would be like pairing two dishes with heavy seasonings. Heavy oak tastes like vanilla and butterscotch.
Start with something you already know, trust yourself. If you think that the wine would be good in a sauce to cover it, generally it would taste good alongside it. I like to add a generous amount of wine into stews and marinara and I drink the same wine with the dish--usually a Cabernet with many stews and Chianti or Sangiovese with Italian. Be brave: I recently had a piece of grilled tuna, with sautéed onions, on top of a grilled Portobello mushroom, paired with a nice Sangiovese. The fruit in the wine made it a match made in heaven.
Mushrooms have an earthy flavor that can help you pair heavier wines to a dish.
Mirror flavors and weight. Match heavy to heavy, light to light, like a heavy Cabernet with a roast or stew, or a broiled salmon fillet with a nice Pino Noir. Or, you could contrast. Choose a Gamay Beaujolais to serve with a fried fish, as long as the spices don't conflict. Speaking of spices, consider them. Also, sauces matter, you can bridge the wine and the food through a sauce made with the wine.
Bottom line, a Pino Noir, Gamay, Beaujolais (it is made with the Gamay grape), or a Sangiovese, in my opinion, will be your most versatile red wines. Perhaps use the wine in cooking the dish or choose seasonings that help pair the two. Rosemary tastes like pine and sometimes helps bridge wine with food. Of course, salt helps bring all of it together.
Most of the wines I mentioned are from America because that is what I am most used to. I am not a wine expert. I just teach Wine Etiquette--everything about sharing wine. I have been teaching my students how to learn more about pairing, which is what I have shared with you. I sincerely hope this helps you.
The Polite One