A horse and carriage? Like dip da dip da dip doowop da doobee doo? Like Beaujolais and goats cheese?
Part of the magic of food is how a simple meal can be transformed from an everyday dinner to a positive symphony of tates by surrounding your main dish with the right accompaniments. Monday night’s family dinner can become a completely transformed experience.
Nowhere is this more true than when choosing the right wine to go with your meal.
Wine is to food and flavour what butter is to bread: one enhances the other enormously. Some people find choosing wine daunting, but this does not need to be the case. Wine is easily understood by following a basic set of principles and is as close by as your nearest Marks and Spencer or local wine merchant.
But to know which bottle to reach for when following that next great recipe? Here are a few basic combinations to help get you started.
For Delicate Fish Dishes
It is important to match delicate dishes with a wine that will not overpower them. Generally, a basic tenet of wine enjoyment is to match the strength of a wine with whatever meal you are enjoying. Therefore, for your delicate fish dishes it is better to purchase light and crisp white varietals. We would recommend a nice Chablis or Pinot Grigio.
For Robust Fish Dishes
Heavier fish dishes, such as salmon or tuna, can demand a stronger and more full white wine. Consider a round Chardonnay or Trebbiano for your more robust fish. If you like a crisp grapefruit finish then Sauvignon Blanc would be your wine of choice.
For Chicken Dishes
Pairing wine with chicken can be a little trickier as the protein itself is generally flavoured by its accompaniements and, as a meat, is so flexible. Chicken dishes themselves can take on so many different flavours, that virtually any wine will do with a given dish – just remember the general rule not to choose a wine that will overpower, or be overpowered by, the dish.
For Vegetarian Dishes
A vegetarian dish can comprise anything from veggies to salads or pastas, so again there are a multitude of options to choose from. This, again, is a matter of overall profile. Many prefer a Zinfandel with a spicy or Spanish inspired vegetarian dish; rich red wines often go with pasta dishes, and an Italian Gavi can be excellent for a light and herbal vegetable dish.
For Red Meat Dishes
Red meat is often much stronger in essence than chicken or fish, and therefore demands wine that can match its intensity. For a steak or similarly heavy red meat dish, Cabernet Sauvignon is a great and reliable way to go. Enjoy some spice with your meat? You can’t beat a Shiraz or Malbec to join in with a spice and depth of their own. When enjoying slightly lighter and more delicate red meat dishes, the ever popular Pinot Noir has a nice light, easy drinking body with a distinctive crisp finish.
For Salty Dishes
This is where you’ll want to break out the bubbly…and we all love bubbly. Even if you are just out for a simple appetizer dish of cheeses and spreads, Champagne is a crisp and toasty experience that is always full of class.
For more information on specific pairings and taste combinations, check out an in-depth explanation at Food & Wine online. But this basic guide should be enough to get you started with your next few meals! Bon Appetit!