how to pair food and wine

How to Pair Food and Wine

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The point is, experience overcomes fear.

This is critical to understand. If you’ve chosen a wine that you like with a dish you enjoy but they do not harmonize beautifully, how bad is that, really? You are left with good food and good wine, and you can savor both individually.

Even more important, each misstep, if you want to label these sorts of situations, is an opportunity to learn and to build on what you now know. You will have had an experience that you will retain far longer than some advice you might have read.

So-called mistakes are beneficial and integral to gaining experience and learning. They are to be embraced rather than feared. Another colleague asked me, what type of wine would go with an acidic dish like panzanella, a Tuscan salad made with stale bread and fresh tomatoes?

I know from experience that fresh tomatoes tend to go best with crisp white wines. Many Italian whites would be terrific, though the wines in this case don’t have to be Italian. Aligoté from Burgundy and Sancerre would be delicious. But could you drink a red with this? Sure, especially if it’s not oaky or tannic.

Almost never is one wine the correct and only choice. You do not have to worry about choosing the perfect bottle because many bottles are the right choice and very few are wrong.

That said, I have two important exceptions: The first are old, fragile wines, especially those that are rare and expensive. In such cases, the wine takes priority, and the food follows. Almost always, the simpler the dish you offer the more flattering it will be to delicate old wine.

The second exception is wines that are tannic, oaky or extremely alcoholic (above 15 percent). These sorts of wines are difficult to pair with many foods because they are essentially unbalanced themselves or perhaps too young to drink. Some wines that are naturally high in alcohol, like Amarone, or fortified, like port, will at least be enjoyable with cheese. But a 16 percent pinot noir? It’s tough to enjoy with any food.