How to pair food and wine

The point is that experience overcomes fear. It’s hard to be wrong This is essential to understand. If you’ve chosen a wine you like w...


The point is that experience overcomes fear.

This is essential to understand. If you’ve chosen a wine you like with a dish you enjoy but they don’t go together so well, isn’t that really bad? You are left with good food and good wine, and you can enjoy both individually.

More importantly, every misstep, if you want to label these kinds of situations, is an opportunity to learn and build on what you now know. You will have had an experience that you will remember much longer than some advice you might have read.

So-called mistakes are beneficial and essential for gaining experience and learning. They should be welcomed rather than feared. Another colleague asked me what kind of wine would go with an acidic dish like Panzanellaa 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 great, although the wines in this case don’t have to be Italian. An Aligoté from Burgundy and Sancerre would be delicious. But could you drink a red with that? Of course, especially if it’s not oaky or tannic.

A wine is almost never the right and only choice. You don’t have to worry about choosing the perfect bottle because many bottles are the right choice and very few are bad.

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 comes first and the food follows. Almost always, the simpler the dish you offer, the more flattering it will be for a delicate old wine.

The second exception concerns tannic, woody or extremely alcoholic wines (more than 15%). These types of wines are difficult to pair with many foods because they themselves are essentially unbalanced or perhaps too young to drink. Some wines that are naturally high in alcohol, like amarone, or fortified, like port, will be at least enjoyable with cheese. But a 16% Pinot Noir? It is difficult to enjoy it with any food.

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