Friday, January 2, 2009

The yes's and no's of vino

Dear Tricia, I know this isn't a food question, but how can you tell which wines to match with different foods? I like to bring a bottle of wine to my friends' for dinner, but I never know what you're supposed to match with what.

The rules of wine and wine pairing have drastically changed over the years. First of all, there's so many more wines than there were 20 years ago; especially American wines, so along with all the new options, there are different rules to follow.
The first rule is: drink what you like. Seriously. With all of the wine snobbery that keeps people afraid of learning about it, all you need to know is what you like and what you don't like, and stick with that.
Second: the old-school idea of matching red wine with red meat and white wine with white meat and fish doesn't necessarily apply anymore. For instance, red wine goes great with salmon... if your friends are making salmon, I'd recommend a Pinot Noir. If you're wine shopping on a budget, there's some amazing wineries from the Pacific Northwest that make great but cheap Pinot Noirs. Red meat usually pairs the best with a red wine. But chicken can also pair well with it... something richer like a chicken with a heavy cream sauce like alfredo can pair well with a red. White wine can also go well with heavier foods like curries. If you're just not sure, you can totally stick to the old school rules of white with white meat and red with red meat. But don't be afraid of being "wrong."
Spicy foods are balanced out well with a white wine: kind of like when I hang out with my Mexican homie Eddie. He's a spicy kind of guy... especially after 4 shots of Jaegermeister. And since I'm the whitest girl ever, we balance each other out nicely. So when it comes to Chinese, Thai, Indian, or Latin influenced foods, go with a white wine: a Sauvignon Blanc or a Pinot Grigio is a light and easily drinkable wine for those.
If you're just bringing a hostess gift to your friends, you can never go wrong with champagne. Its bubbly, festive, and makes people happy. Seriously! If you ask your friends, "Which would make you happier? Champagne? Or a Chinese finger trap?" they'll surely choose the champagne. No contest. Watch the happiness ensue.
So... to sum it up: as long as you choose a good wine, don't worry about what you think it'll pair with. If you're not sure, then stick with the red with red meat rule and the white with white wine rule. If some uppity wine snob scoffs at your pairing, feel free to lecture him on limiting the possibilities in his life and denying himself of his rightful happiness. Drink what you enjoy. I happen to like boxed wine. And you know what? It pairs beautifully with my Whataburger and my Taco Bell.

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