The most common method when pairing wine to food is complementing. That is, pairing wine that has a similar weight, richness, and flavor components as the food.
Pairing wine with steak
The most obvious example is steak. There are several cuts of steak, each with varying components. Ribeye, for example, is rich with well marbleized fat and intense flavor. Due to this you’ll want a big wine – preferably with a good amount of acidity to cut through the fat. Selections such as Long Shadows Feather Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington State made by Randy Dunn, Domaine Eden Cabernet Sauvignon from Santa Cruz, or Left Bank Bordeaux Chateau Gloria’s 2018 St. Julien, Chateau Fonbadet’s 2018 Pauillac, or 2015 Phelan Segur St. Estephe all have the weight, power and acidity to hold up to ribeye. Lighter cuts such as filet require a lighter red wine, such as Pinot Noir, Sangiovese or Grenache.
Long Shadows Feather Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
Domaine Eden Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
Pairing wine with white meat
White meat poultry such as chicken or turkey require a light bodied red or full-bodied white. Pinot Noir is a traditional pairing to chicken in Burgundy. Higher acidity is key as a wine with too little acidity, and in turn higher alcohol, will dull the complexity of the dish. Selections such as Cristom’s Mt. Jefferson Cuvee, Sandhi Sta. Rita Hills, or Faiveley’s Clos Des Myglands from Mercurey in southern Burgundy all fit that bill perfectly. Chardonnay is also a fabulous pairing, but as mentioned previously, I’d suggest a bottling that is full bodied, such as Ramey’s Fort Ross Seaview Estate, Jean Noel Gagnard’s Hautes Cotes De Beaune Blanc Sous Eguisons, or Planeta’s Sicilian Chardonnay.
Faiveley Mercurey Clos Des Myglands 2020
Ramey Chardonnay Fort Ross Seaview Estate 2018
Pairing wine with spicy food
Spicy food is a little challenging – a traditional dry wine or red wine with tannins will only enhance the heat, but you’ll still want to be mindful of flavor components in the dish. Thai food screams for Riesling, specifically German. You’ll want a bottling that has sweetness and high acidity (Spatelese, Auslese or Feinherb), such as Selbach-Oster’s Feinherb Spatlese Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Ur-Alte Reben or Dr. Loosen’s Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese. I’d stay away from trocken, grosses gewachs, or anything from Austria as they tend to be bone dry. Indian food calls for Gewurztraminer, so any bottling from Zind-Humbrecht or Trimbach, who both have a richer style, would be perfect.
Selbach-Oster Riesling Spatlese Feinherb Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Ur-Alte Reben
Dr. Loosen Riesling Auslese Wehlener Sonnenuhr
As mentioned in my previous article, when complementing, shellfish should be paired with light racy whites or sparkling wine with lower alcohol that have a salinity component, such as Chablis, Muscadet sur Lie, or Blanc de Blancs Champagne. The tannins in red wine will give the shellfish and light fish a metallic, almost aluminum flavor. The salinity component on these selections will highlight the brininess of shellfish, and the acidity will enhance that even more. High alcohol will overwhelm the delicacy of these food components.