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This FREE Wine Education Course Includes: Why Wine? | Wine & Health | Social History | Sensory User's Manual | Grape Growing | Wine Making | Varietal Profiles | Sparkling Wine Wine Information on Reading Labels, Selecting and Buying Wine, Serving and Storing, etc. Taste includes the compiled wine tasting notes from our monthly panel, as well as reports on public tasting events, wherever we attend them, and notices of recurring wine events in Central California. There is also a Food & Wine section with a few wine-friendly recipes. In Aftertaste, see if you agree with our opinions and editorials in Wrath, find our Reading List and pages of Links in Bacchanalia, to discover additional sources of wine information. Contact and sponsor information, short bios of the PfW tasting panel and the stories of PfW's formation and the web site genesis. Return to the starting point.
Wine and Food

Wine is a natural accompaniment to food. Wine chemistry helps to soothe the psyche, appetize and refresh the palate, and assist with digestion. Some combinations of wine and food are more successful than others. The important operative wisdom is to eat and drink what you like.

Attempts to set down a complex list of "rules" for matching food to wine are ill-advised; the myriad variables of preparations, spices, sauces, side dishes, etc., along with individual palate and preference, make rules impossible. That being said, we'll step into the quagmire and share some generalities that guide us well...

If the food flavors are complex, keep the wine simple. If the wine is complex, straightforward and simple food preparation will allow the wine to show off.

Matching the general flavor profile of the wine with that of the food usually works. Keep the categories simple:

FOOD FLAVORS

MATCH
WINE FLAVORS
Salty or sour (savory)
  Light, tart, crisp, dry
Bitter
  Full, dry, tannic
Rich
  Rich, fat, oaky
Sweet
  Fruity, sweet

When flavor elements mix in the food, try the same combination in wine. Tomato sauces, for example, usually combine both sweet and sour flavors, so try wines that have both fruity and tart complexities. This is not an exclusive or hard-and-fast system by any means; there are other combinations that may work just fine and serendipitous surprises are always palate-thrilling, but this chart can be a good starting point.

Occasionally a particular flavor element in wine may be echoed by one in the food, but these pinpoint matches have an element of risk. A hint of cinnamon, for instance, can work wonders with some, but not all, Pinot Noirs. Best try any combinations you think might work first, before committing to guests or large gatherings.

SPARKLING WINES are very all-purpose. Bubbles are a great refresher and palate cleanser. These wines are especially good with savory foods. Want a treat? ... try sparkling wine with pizza!

CRISP, DRY WHITES are a good all-purpose category. Dry whites with little or no oak will harmonize with a wide variety of dishes.

RICH, DRY WHITES are good matches for foods that have cream or butter-based sauces. Some oak here is usually all right.

AROMATIC, FRUITY WHITES work with delicate foods, such as trout.

SWEET, FRUITY WHITES are the best choice for spicy (hot) cuisine, such as some Asian or Mexican dishes. Be careful trying to match sweet wines with sweet desserts - the sweetness levels need to be very similar.

LIGHT REDS or RICH REDS are another good all-purpose category. They are fine with roasts and stews, fowl, and light meats. Many will even work with meaty fish, like salmon, swordfish, or halibut.

BOLD, TANNIC REDS are reserved for steaks, chops and charred dishes. They also handle acidic foods, like tomato sauce, and take the edge away from bitter greens.

Feel free to experiment. Learn what works for your palate. As we said in the beginning, the important operative wisdom is to eat and drink what you like.


We welcome reader contributions to help grow this section...
WINE-FRIENDLY RECIPES, rather than trying to simplify the complex art of matching wine and food, we share specific matches that work for us.

Cassoulet (Pinot Noir)

Wrapped Stuffed Prawns (Chardonnay)

Pozolé (Fruity-Reds or Whites)

Spicy Long Bean Beef (Riesling)

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Page updated March 10, 2004
Except as noted, site design & content © 1999-2004 by
Jim LaMar. All rights reserved.