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People have been drinking wine with their meals for so long that it’s become an art form. Classic pairings have formed, such as red Burgundy and roast beef, champagne and caviar, red Bordeaux and lamb. Why do we pair wine with food? Two reasons. First, think about eating a piece of steak. The first bite is delicious, the second bite is good, but by the third bite you’ve habituated to the flavors of the dish. If you sip wine in between each bite, you prevent yourself from habituating and take in more flavor.
The second and more popular reason is that the flavors in wine and food bring out the best in each other. Certain pairings – the aforementioned red Burgundy and roast beef – work together, making each other taste better than they would’ve separately. With that in mind, here are the wine pairing essentials you should know:
Most Combinations Work
The biggest misconception people have is that there is only one wine that works per food. That’s false. When you’re picking a wine to go with your meal, relax in the fact that most wines will work with most meals. It’s rare for a wine to ruin a meal – and it’s equally rare for a wine to elevate a meal. This means that you can get a great wine well in advance without worrying about whether or not it’ll go with the meal.
Show Off the Star
Either the wine should support the meal or the meal should support the wine. If you’ve prepared a complex meal, choose a simple wine – full-bodied reds will have trouble matching a complex sauce. Conversely, if your meal is simple, feel free to experiment with deeper, more complex wines.
Like Attracts Like
Match your bold wines with powerful meals, and your softer wines with softer meals. If you match a bold wine with a delicate meal, the wine will overpower the meal to the point where you’ll barely taste it. Obviously, the reverse is true as well.
Pair Wine and Sauce
Traditional wine pairing sounds something like this: white wines with chicken, pork and fish, red wines with red meat. This advice isn’t wrong, but it’s overly simple. When you’re selecting a wine, you want the flavors of the wine to compliment the sauce on the dish. If you’re having a special meal featuring a tomato sauce over chicken, you wouldn’t select a citrusy white, you’d select a more bold red, which would be better suited for the occasion. Remember – the sauce is what provides the majority of flavor to the dish, and as such, you should pair the wine to the sauce.
Dessert Wines with Dessert
Dessert wines are sweeter than other wines, and they go better with dessert for that reason. The only thing you have to be careful of is overloading your taste buds – the sweeter the dessert, the less sweet the wine should be. Keep in mind that cold desserts such as ice cream will numb your taste buds.
Artichoke hearts contain cynarin, a chemical that creates the taste of sweetness where there isn’t any and can throw off the taste of wine. Avoid egg yolk as it will coat your palette and prevent you from getting the best wine experience. And, yes, you should generally avoid pairing red wine with fish, though there are exceptions.