Most people know the old adage about choosing a wine to pair with food: red with red meat; white with chicken and fish. But where does pork fit? What about vegetarian food? Suppose you are having a dark-fleshed fish, such as tuna or salmon. Does it matter what kind of cuisine you’re eating—Italian, French, Greek, Indian, or Japanese? And if you’ve decided on red, what then? Will it be a sweet Chenin Blanc, a dry Beaujolais, or a fruity Zinfandel? Wouldn’t it be nice if there were some online sources for guidance? Well, there are.
Wine for Food
If you’ve worked really hard preparing your food and are looking for a wine to highlight it, I suggest turning to these helpful sites.
Aside from wine pairing basics, this site will help you find the best wines to serve based on a specific ingredient you’d like to complement or the sauce you are using. There are some curious concepts here, such as pairing wines with frozen entrees, burgers with different toppings, pizzas, snack foods, and other items. For example, a burger topped with grilled white onions, sautéed mushrooms, and Swiss cheese goes well with an Italian Chianti or a California Sangiovese, whereas a burger dressed with all-American pickle relish and yellow mustard does better with a White Zinfandel. Want to have an Australian Shiraz with your pizza? Top it with sausage, mushrooms, and onions.
West Coast Wine Network (http://www.westcoastwine.net)
Scroll down to “Miscellaneous” and click on “Pairing Food & Wine.” This page has a comprehensive analysis of wine pairing, complete with interesting historical and academic information. It also offers solid advice, including how to cook with wine in sauces and reductions as well as an explanation of the “bridge ingredient” concept (i.e., every dish has an ingredient that connects it to the wine). What is also useful is the discussion of pairing wines according to cooking methods as well as to international cuisine.
Beekman Wines & Liquors (http://www.beekmanwine.com/winefood.htm)
This site has general guidelines, helpful cooking pairing categories (such as light and heavy appetizers, cold fowl and meats, etc.), and specific pairing combinations (such as wine for couscous, jambalaya, duck á l’orange, quiche, and soufflé).
Best of Taste (http://www.bestoftaste.com/special/FoodandWinePairing)
This site has a simple grid: foods on one side; wines on top. Run your fingers across and you have your pairing. The categories are broad (“lamb,” for example) and don’t take possible preparations into account. Under “appetizers,” you’ll find several wines checked off (because there are millions of appetizers), so it doesn’t help much. But it is a quick and dirty reference point.
Hormel Foods (http://www.hormelfoods.com) has a more simplified chart. To locate it, click the “Knowledge” tab on the home page, then scroll down the list to “Beverages” and click on “Wines.”
Sutter Home Winery (http://www.sutterhome.com/html/guide)
This site has a cool and fun gimmick—a food pairing wheel. You “spin” the wheel to the category you desire and it gives you a brief guideline to follow (e.g., “Light, fruity desserts pair beautifully with Moscato, but richer, sweeter desserts … demand a sweet wine like Port.”), recipes to choose from, and suggested wines.
Turning Leaf Vineyards (http://www.turningleaf.com/home.asp) has four interactive wheels to help you pair wines with food, cheese, and herbs as well as food with wines. It also has an interactive scale that determines the best wine according to the heaviness of the food. (Check out the cool Aroma Wheel too!)
Berry Bros. & Rudd “Food and Wine Matching Page” (http://www.bbr.com)
This page has unusual entries for pairings, including Hare Casserole and Wild Boar. (Some entries, such as Haggis, Steak and Kidney Pie, and Neeps & Tatties, are indicative that this is a British site.) To get to it, click on “Wine Knowledge” on the home page. Then click “Wine FAQs” and “Food and Wine.”
Williams Sonoma “Pairing Food & Wine Page” (http://www.williams-sonoma.com)
This page is elusive, but it contains a lengthy list of foods and complementary wines. To get to it, click on “Recipes,” type “wine” in the recipe search bar, scroll down the results page to “Related Results,” click on “Pairing Wine & Vegetables,” and finally scroll down that page and click on “Pairing Food and Wine.”
Food for Wine
Now let’s suppose that food is irrelevant. You have a great bottle of wine that you want to share with your friends. The wine is the center of attention and, therefore, your goal is to find a recipe that best complements it. These sites offer recipes and suggest the wines that go with them:
Some sites discuss the pairing of ethnic wines, such as Italian, Spanish, French, or German, but most of the sites I described incorporate worldwide wines in their lists or general descriptions.
Some sites are in straight text format; others have tables, grids, and charts, making it easier for you to choose a wine without having to read the whys and wherefores. While this is great when you’re pressed for time and need a quick answer before rushing out to the liquor store, reading the information is a good idea. It will help you understand why particular wines go with particular foods.
Each site offers you a nugget of information to add to your wine pairing arsenal. For example, Beekman Wines & Liquors offers this tidbit about champagne: “Champagne is not the best choice with caviar and smoked salmon! The sugar dosage in most champagne is amplified by the pungent fish oils, turning the wine sweet and fishy.”
Rule one of IneTour’s (http://www.inetours.com/PagesWT/Food_and_wine.html) 10 rules of thumb says, “If you are taking wine as a gift to a dinner party, don’t worry about matching the wine to the food unless you have been requested to do so …. Just bring a good wine. … A grand dinner party with multiple courses of elaborately prepared dishes deserves a better wine than hamburgers on the grill with chips in a bag.” Makes sense.
Wine for Cheese
Pairing wine with cheese can be a tricky business. Despite their classic association, some cheeses override the flavors of wine. According to Epicurious.com, certain cheeses “coat the palate with a layer of fat that works against dry red wine. The wine’s flavors become dull and lifeless.” Don’t worry, however. It can be done.
GourmetSleuth.com (http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/cpairing.htm) has one of the lengthiest cheese and wine pairing lists I’ve seen (don’t even bother with its food and wine pairing page). ILoveCheese.com has a rather short list of cheeses to pair, but it does include the most common varieties. And Epicurious.com offers some explanation behind wine and cheese pairing as well as a list of suggestions at http://www.epicurious.com/drinking/wine/ewg/cheese. Although their list revolves around specific brands and vintage years, you can still use it as a basis for your decisions. OregonWines.com also has a decent cheese/wine list. You can find it by clicking on the “Entertaining” tab.
The one thing that all these sites stress is that you should drink the wine you like. While these guidelines are based on scientific principles, they are not written in stone. It all comes down to what you enjoy.
Roberta Roberti is a freelance writer who has written more than 25articles for various publications. You can find links to some of themat her web site (www.rroberti-writer.com).