Wine Pairing 101
Updated: May 31, 2022
Wine pairings can be confusing. How do I know what wines go with what foods? How much should I spend on a bottle? What does fruit-forward even mean? Enjoying wine with friends should be a simple pleasure. It shouldn't be intimidating or stressful. We will attempt to break it down for you. Typically white wine pairs with more cheeses because white wine lacks tannins, which is the wine's pucker power. A wine that contains high levels of tannins will be bitter on the tongue and dries the mouth out. Not a bad thing. Some of the world's best red wines are high in tannins. Enough about tannins. Winemaking is a science and a complicated process. White wines tend to be more acidic than red. A good rule of thumb: white wine goes well with soft cheeses and red wine goes well with harder cheeses. Check out any winery or wine shop and wines are being paired with chocolate, cupcakes, and even Girl Scout cookies.
You can do a wine pairing in your own home with family and friends. First the cheese. There are 4 types of cheeses. Bloomy cheeses have a soft rind and are creamy in texture such as a Brie or Camembert. Pears compliment this type of cheese. Blue cheeses are salty and pungent like a Gorgonzola and Blue. Walnuts and honey bring out the potent flavor of blue cheeses. Hard cheese is sharp and salty in taste such as gouda, cheddar, and parmesan. You can pair hard cheeses with dried fruits, like apricots and figs. The last type is fresh cheeses that are spreadable and not aged such as Ricotta and Mozzarella. Sundried tomatoes bring out the flavor of fresh cheeses. When pairing wine and cheese think of contrasting flavors. Salty cheeses, such as Parmesan, go well with sweet wines.
Next to the wine. Light crisp white wines, like Pinot Grigio or White Blends, go well with soft cheeses, such as Brie and Camembert. White wines are often served at the beginning of a dinner party with the appetizers. If serving white wine at dinner these wines complement white fish, shrimp, tofu, and citrusy dishes. They can also be served with a lunch of a hearty salad and crusty bread.
Rich white wines, such as Chardonnay and Viognier, go well with parmesan and provolone cheeses. Being slightly acidic, these wines can also pair well with bloomy cheeses. For dinner, these wines go well with fish, salmon, and chicken. Bigger whites can stand up to bigger flavors.
Moving to medium-bodied reds, like Pinot Noir and Merlot, they pair well with Monterey Jack and goat cheeses. You can pair these wines with chicken, roasted vegetables, cured meats, and starches. A medium red is a flexible choice to serve if you want to stay with one wine through cheese, salad, and dinner.
Bold red wines, such as Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, pair well with hard cheeses like gouda and cheddar. Bold reds are considered the classic steak wine. They are rich and tannic enough to cut through the fat. They also pair with pasta in heavy meat sauces. A surprising pairing is bold reds with BBQ and other spiced dishes.
The main thing to remember is to enjoy trying new wines and foods. There is no right or wrong way to drink wine, enjoy new foods or spend time with friends. It can be fun discussing what you taste when trying new wine and foods. Cleansing your palate is practiced when moving from white to red. Bread, such as a baguette, or a plain cracker, is eaten followed by plain unflavored water.
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