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How to Find the Right Wine for Your Food

While the right wine to drink with your meal depends entirely on what wine you enjoy, it is true that the right wine selection can really complement a delicious meal. Knowing what wine goes with what food is especially handy when throwing a formal dinner party, because you may not know the individual tastes of your guests, and you certainly don’t want the wine and food combination to clash. Luckily, you don’t need to be a food and wine connoisseur to make the right pairings — as long as you follow a few basic principles.

Match the flavours

There is no strict formula for matching wine with food. Rather, try using your senses to come up with the perfect combination. The aroma of the wine can help guide you. For instance, a strong, full-bodied wine will overpower light-tasting food such as fish. Not only that, but the right wine can actually bring out the flavour in food. For example, serving a sweet wine will make a dessert taste sweeter. However, if you pair a dry wine with sweet food, the flavour and aromas of each will stand out more.

Choose between red and white

You may have heard the old rule of thumb: “white wine with white meat, red wine with red meat.” In general, this is a good rule to live by simply because red wines are generally heavier wines, and red meats are usually heavier food. Therefore, you can pair red wines like sangria, Bordeaux and cabernet with dishes containing beef or pork. Similarly, white wines and white meats are generally lighter, so food such as salmon, stir-fry, turkey and vegetarian dishes go well with wines like Riesling, chardonnay or pinot blanc.

If you want, you can also match the wine with how you prepare the food. For instance, foods prepared with a delicate technique — like poached, grilled or sautéed — should be matched with delicate wines so the flavour of the food isn’t overpowered. On the other hand, food that has been fried, roasted or flame-broiled goes much better with richer, heavier wine because it helps to bring out the flavour.

Serving many different wines

Often, it makes sense to serve a few different wines during a meal. If you are planning to do this, a good rule of thumb is to serve light wines before full-bodied wines. For instance, if you’re starting with a salad, then also start with a dry white Riesling. A main course of steak should be paired with a cabernet, followed by a sweet wine for dessert. Of course, there are exceptions, such as serving port with rich chocolate cake, and serving a light wine if the main course is heavily spiced.

Wine gift baskets

If you’re planning to give a gift basket filled with wine and food, you can use some of the principles mentioned above to ensure the best wine/food pairing. Sending a well-aged bottle of Bordeaux with gourmet snacks for an anniversary, birthday or other milestone is a great idea. For a truly special gift, choose a wine that is local to your region, along with local cheeses.