While there is a common saying that White Wine goes with chicken or fish and Red Wine goes with red meat, in reality, the art of food and wine pairing is both much more complex and much more straightforward than that.
Our number one rule here at Rombauer? If you love a certain wine, enjoy it any way you like including food that may go “against” some of the ideas and pointers below.
That said, when we dig a little deeper, we consider wine and food pairing a fun game of matchmaking.
Sometimes you look for your food and wine to complement each other, emphasizing certain qualities or characteristics of each that when enjoyed together, really sing. Consider a classic pairing of our Chardonnay with Fettuccini Alfredo or buttered popcorn- the rich creamy palate of the wine is mirrored in the food. Similarly, consider the high acidity and citrus notes of most mignonettes for fresh oysters, and those textures and flavors can be found in our Sauvignon Blanc making that a perfect complementary pair.
On the red wines side, some examples of complementary pairing include Zinfandel with barbeque and steak with Cabernet Sauvignon. Barbeque is complex and bold so to find a wine that won’t be overshadowed by that, you need a big, bold, complex red wine. Our Zinfandel is that wine, with its flavors and body able to hold its own. Steak with Cabernet Sauvignon is arguably the most iconic food and wine pairing but for good reason. Cabernet Sauvignon is known for its tannins, the mouth feels a sensation that is slightly drying and causes you to want to chew, and these tannins will bind with the proteins in steak and create a magical combination as you cut, chew, sip, and savor the flavors.
However, sometimes opposites attract. If a food is spicy, look for a wine with a little sweetness to counter that spicy. If a food is very fatty, look for a wine with high acidity to balance out the rich food; the wine itself will feel less acidic than when enjoyed with other foods. If a dish is either salty or very high in acid, the wine will seem to have a bigger body and more fruit-forward; it will be a milder wine overall.
Some examples of “contrast” pairings include our Sauvignon Blanc with guacamole as the rich avocado and mild heat get countered by our bright Sauvignon Blanc. Another is our Zinfandel with a tomato sauce-based pizza as the acidity of the sauce is perfect for the fruitiness of the wine.
All this said each individual food and wine experience are unique. Unique to the people enjoying them, unique to their tastes, their occasions, their settings, and more. So ultimately this leads up back to our number one rule- if you love the wine, don’t let anything stop you from enjoying it exactly how YOU want to.