This post gives various suggestions for pairing wine and food. These suggestions, based on the general opinions of experienced wine drinkers, are included to help those with less experience and should enable anyone to satisfy the palates of most guests at the dinner table. But the most important opinion about any wine is that of the person drinking it. Personal opinions differ widely. If a person wants white wine with ice to accompany his beef steak, then that is what he should have. In fact, trying the ‘wrong’ wines with various dishes is essential if the drinker is to acquire any real understanding of why specific wines and dishes tend to make excellent partners.
However, when serving wine to guests, the conventional approach is generally best. Probably the most helpful advice is not to spoil a good meal by serving inferior wine, and not to mask the subtlety of fine wine by serving it with highly spiced or vinegary dishes.
Aperitifs serve to stimulate the appetite and encourage relaxation. A wide range of wines and spirits are drunk as aperitifs. Many of these are strongly flavoured and tend to numb the palate, rendering it incapable of detecting the subtleties of good food and wine. Still or sparkling dry wine, white or rose, makes a good aperitif, as does a dry or medium-dry sherry. Dry or medium-dry champagne is an excellent appetizer.
WINES WITH HORS D’OEUVRES
The most difficult part of a meal to match with a wine is usually the hors d’oeuvre. Many hors d’oeuvres are flavoured with vinegar, which tends to make any accompanying wine taste vinegary too. Lemon juice sprinkled on fish also affects the taste of wine, as does the bitter taste of the grapefruit. If table wine is served, a cheap variety will be quite adequate to go with strongly flavoured dishes. Plainer hors d’oeuvres can be accompanied by a better quality table wine or champagne. Some foods, such as eggs, go well with most wines. But, in many cases, care is needed in choosing wine.
WINES WITH SOUPS Dry, fortified wines are satisfactory with most meat soups. Sherry is generally suitable although, if the soup contains wine, then the same type of wine may prove to be a more suitable drink. If the wine used in the soup is of poor quality, a better version of the same basic type of wine can be served instead. Dry madeira is suitable for many of the heavier, more strongly flavoured meat soups. In most cases, the wine to be served with the main course can be confidently served with the soup too.
WINES WITH MAIN COURSES
Red meat usually demands a dry red wine. A good beef or lamb dish, provided that it is not highly seasoned, justifies a bottle or two of the best red wine available. If the meat itself is of the more
highly flavoured kind —liver. Kidneys, or gammon, for example — a full-bodied. Medium-quality red wine is usually most suitable. The finesse of a great wine would be difficult to appreciate with dishes of this kind.
Many different types of wine can be enjoyed with white meats, such as veal, pork, and chicken. If white wine is served, it should be dry or medium-dry , and full-flavoured. Rosé, or a light red wine are alternatives, being particularly suited to the more strongly flavoured white meat dishes.
Fish, including shellfish, almost always tastes best with dry white wine. White wine with a slightly sharp, acid flavour can be used to offset the oiliness that is characteristic of some fish dishes. Fish with an extremely delicate flavour needs to be accompaniedby a very light white wine. A fuller bodied white wine can be served with the more flavourful fish dishes. If lemon or a strong sauce is provided with the fish, a cheaper variety of wine can be served.
WINE WITH CHEESE The relatively strong flavour of most cheeses demands a full-bodied red table wine, or port. White wine goes well with most of the milder cheeses.
WINES WITH DESSERTS
Sweet dishes are best accompanied by sweet, rich wine, the contrast of such food with dry wine being rather unpleasant. Heavy, sweet fortified wines are suitable companions for the sweetest dishes.