Simple Rules For Pairing Wine & Food

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Walk into many wine and spirits stores, and you will likely encounter a dizzying array of selections.

While wine selections were once limited to a few well-known brands, many niche and private wineries have begun to make their vintages available to a wider clientele, so now shoppers are treated to both familiar and less well-known options.

A night of entertainment often includes good food, good wine and great company. For many dinner party hosts, the vast array of wines and flavors can make pairing food with wine more like rocket science than something fun. But you don't need to be a master to find the right pairing! Balancing the food and wine so that they complement each other, without one overwhelming the other, is the goal. The following tips can help anyone select wine to go with their menu.

*A good general rule of thumb is to pair white wines with lighter foods, such as poultry or fish, and red wines with bolder flavors such as steak or hearty ethnic foods.

*Focus on pairing the wine with the dominant flavor of the dish instead of the main ingredient. Oftentimes, the sauce is this flavor (not the meat) and the wine will go best when paired with the most prominent flavor.

*Work from light to dark. Just as you begin a meal with lighter appetizers or salads before moving on to the heavier courses, the wine should follow suit. Select lighter wines to accompany the earlier courses before moving to deeper, richer wines as the meal progresses.

*Match delicate seafood dishes with a light wine. Pinot Grigio is typically delicately flavored and will pair well with seafood, though fish that is served in a rich sauce may be better matched to a heartier Chardonnay.

*Big, bold reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux wines pair well with hearty meats such as steaks or chops. 

* When serving cheese, Rosé is typically a safe bet. Although some cheeses work great with red or white wines, the acidity and fruity character of Rosé offers the best of both worlds.

Some people follow a strict code regarding wine pairings. However, personal tastes should dictate what you ultimately serve. Experimentation can yield an unexpected flavor combination that complements both the food and the wine. 

When in doubt, ask for a suggestion from one of the talented winemakers of Ramona! Visit the local wineries to find that special bottle or check out their individual websites to learn more about wine pairing events in the area. ■