Matching Wine with Food

Hey, everyone! I've been positively swamped with work these past two months, which is why this place is even quieter than usual.

I don't know when will I have time to get back to some serious posting, but it may be the second half of February, or even March. Being an adult is annoying.

But it has its perks, too. Seeing as we're well into the carnival right now, I am feeling festive, and even if I won't be doing any partying of my own, I hope you will.

And for that reason, I've decided to whip up this quick guide on how to match wine to food for a satisfying experience. Most people know that white wine goes with white meat and red wine goes with red meat, but what about vegetable dishes? What about cheeses? What to do? How to cope?

Well, you cope by following these simple rules:

  1. Even a little attention goes a long way

Wine aficionados can get pretentious, and once you delve into the subject of wine, it often gets needlessly complicated, with florid terms that don't really tell you anything. Therefore, many people swing the pendulum too much the other way, insisting there is no reason to give any thought to wine matching, and anyway it's all the same, and did you hear the "experts" gushed over some cheap wine provided it had a snobbish label on?

The truth, as usual, is in the middle. You don't have to buy the most expensive wine and you don't have to pass an online course to choose a good wine, but it is a good idea to make at least some effort. White wine is served for fish... but not if it's syrupy Muscat. Observing the few basics will give you a better experience, and it's not really that hard.

  2. Always aim at equality

Equality, in the context of wine, means pairing a strong wine with a strong dish. I don't mean the alcoholic quotient: in this case, "strong" means "rich in potent flavours." If you made pork roast heavy with rosemary and garlic, you need a wine that will be its equal in flavour strength - probably a dark, rich, red wine. If you have steamed salmon with just a pinch of butter, you need a light, delicate wine that will not overwhelm the fish.
I always advise people to simply get to know a few wines easily available to them (at the nearest shop, in their price range etc.) so that they know how each of them tastes and are ready to match. Works wonders.
Note: when matching tastes, match the overall effect, not just the main ingredient. You can use cod to make delicate dishes of sautée fish and lemon, or you can use it in a powerful fish curry mix.

  3. Sweet wine only for desserts, if at all

The existence of sweet wine is a bit of a problem, culinarily speaking. It doesn't really work with any food - people say it's for desserts, but when you're having dessert, coffee, tea, liqueurs or champagne are so much better than any sweet wine. Sweet red wine can be mulled, and that's nice. Sweet white wine... well, if you enjoy the taste, drink it alone, but don't expect it to pair well with food.
Semi-sweet white wines can sometimes work with vegetable-only dishes, but they won't achieve anything that a semi-dry couldn't.

  4. When in doubt, trust family

Wines from a given region of the world will usually match well with foods from that region. And, in the era of the Internet, you can find out very quickly what wines are typical for the weird region where the weird cheese you bought as an experiment comes from. And even if you can't get your hands on the wines from the region in question, you can at least get the idea of what type or taste is supposed to go well with it.
Also somewhat on this subject, dishes that require wine as one of their ingredients (risotto, coq au vin etc.) should be served with the same wine you chose for cooking. When choosing the wine as an ingredient, refer back to this same guide.

That's it! Now go and wine someone.


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