Don’t try to pair just flavors of food with wine all the time. Nice rhyme there. The best pairings can come from many other factors. Think about the acidity, spice, texture, weight, and dryness/sweetness (sugar)/fruitiness. Remember sugar in wine can help cut through and balance spice and acidity in food. Try a semi-dry/off-dry Rieslings, semi-dry Gewurztraminers, and Moscato with Thai food or other spicy Asian cuisine or high acid bubbly with, believe it or not, pizza. And traditional Champers and rose bubbly has enough structure and tannin (from grape skins) to stand up to fatty steak. We are surrounded by a world of diverse cuisines unlike the old world, classic wine regions where the “rules” are obsolete.
Drink what you love or feel and grab a young, fruity wine for great food versatility.
Here are some unusual pairings I’ve discovered over the years along with others’ experiences, which includes some classic un-pairable foods –
Beaujolais, Gamay, or fruity red + BBQ and tacos
Fruity Rieslings + pizza and picnic foods
Gruner Veltliner, dry Muscat, Sauvignon Blanc + asparagus
Red Burgundy, high acid whites + sushi
Rose + eggs benedict
White Rioja (Spanish white), Chenin Blanc + Brussel sprouts
Cabernet Franc + Chinese foods with spice
When it comes to pairing, the sauce or marinade can be more important than the main dish. Proteins and veggies are affected by how they are prepared and sauces with them. Think rich and creamy or sweet and tangy or salty/acidic. Classic French kitchens employed a saucier who focused on that aspect while western civilizations looked at primary ingredient. This is true of Asian cuisines as well. Think about how those dishes are prepared and ‘sauces’ or savory flavors in a stir fry, grilled dish, or sweet and sour/garlic sauce.
Wine and food from the same country or region can offer a great pairing opportunity, but don’t overlook food and wine from completely different places. Yes, a red Barolo from Piedmont is perfect for heavy pastas, but so is a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with some Mexican cuisine with chile verde.
Oak in wine can be an issue and kill flavors in food. The woody, cedar, and vanilla type sweetness can overtake subtle and savory flavors. If you like that wine, try an ‘unoaked’ or ‘lightly oaked’ wine from the Finger Lakes region of NY. They can solve many of those problems. If you sense oak on the palate, then the wine may conflict with your food. Don’t forget about sweetness. Regardless of the grape varietal or style of wine, if the sugar content lines up with the grub even if it isn’t likely pairing, then you are good to go. Much of this tech stuff can be accessed from producers’ websites as well.
If unsuccessful, reach for the bubbles, including beer!!! They go with just about everything thanks to the effervescence.