Culinary adventures aren’t limited to just the food on the table. We asked our wine partner, Neil Smith of WineSmith (Ashburn, VA), to help guide us in wine selection.
And, don’t forget that with the help of wine experts like Neil, Let’s Dish! makes it even easier to select a wine for dinner by pairing a beverage with each dish. When viewing our monthly menu, simply click through to see the “Nutrition and Details” link under each dish next to the information icon – – and look for the Recommended Beverages next to the wine glass icon (above) in the table on the left.
Selecting a wine to enjoy with dinner can be intimidating, especially when you consider the thousands of wine choices that are available. And most people wouldn’t argue that picking a special bottle of wine to enjoy with a special meal is a fairly stressful decision. But deciding which bottle of wine to open with your pasta dinner on a Tuesday night shouldn’t cause a panic attack.
The goal of pairing wine with food is simply to make the meal more pleasurable, and opening a bottle of wine with your weekday dinner is a signal that you intend to sit down and enjoy your dining experience (even if it’s brief). And you don’t need to finish the bottle in one sitting – most wines will taste just fine a day or two after they have been opened.
So, how do you get confident about pairing food and wine? Experience is key, and you won’t get confident unless you start trying different combinations of food and wine. But here are a few basic ideas to get you started:
- First, match the weight of the wine with the weight of the food. Most people stick with the rule of serving heavier red wines with red meats and white wines with white meat and seafood. For example, a full-bodied red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon will overwhelm a baked tilapia filet, but it will nicely complement a filet of steak hot off the grill. But don’t take this rule too literally. Some white wines, like a heavily oaked Chardonnay, can also be too powerful for a lightly prepared seafood dish. For this reason, lighter bodied wines like Sauvignon Blanc (white) and Pinot Noir (red) are more versatile for food pairings.
- A second tip is to remember the adage, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” If you’re eating an Italian-style meal for example, grab a bottle of Chianti or other Italian wine. Wines from a certain region often pair best with food from that same region, mainly because the ingredients and styles have all grown up together, so to speak. On the other hand, thinking globally can create some equally wonderful pairings. Few wines complement spicy Asian food better than slightly sweet Rieslings from Germany. The delicate sweetness of the wine helps temper the spiciness of the food.
- Traditional wine and food pairing rules are helpful, but rules are also meant to be broken. And with a multitude of great wines on the market for $10 or less, you shouldn’t feel guilty about experimenting with different wines a few nights each week. Remember, practice makes perfect!
— Neil Smith