Pairing Food And Drink

By Sara Mendell

July 30, 2012 3 min read

Recently, my husband and I went to a dinner party at a friend's house. The party was fabulous. Looking back on what made the party so fun, I would have to say it was the hostess's attention to detail. She seemed to pair the drinks with her delicious food perfectly.

We were greeted with a very light Champagne, which was served with a cherry tomato salad with mozzarella in a light white wine vinaigrette. The pairing was light, smooth and simply refreshing.

For starters, if people wanted to go in a totally different direction, the hostess was offering chips and guacamole, paired with a light and refreshing Mexican beer, such as Corona or Pacifico.

The next pairing was a buttery sole that came out with an equally buttery chardonnay. The wine came from California's Sonoma Valley.

Then out came a refreshing Perrier with fresh lemon, followed by a lemon sorbet. This refreshing combination was the perfect palate cleanser.

The main dish was filet mignon, served with a cabernet sauvignon, which is a full-bodied red wine.

For dessert came a rich chocolate mousse with coffee, either regular or decaf. Then she passed out chocolate truffles.

After the party, I did a little research into what some of the basic rules for pairing wines with food are. I came up with these:

1) Simple before complex.

2) Dry before sweet.

3) Simple wines match simple food dishes.

4) Light wine matches light dishes. (Think the white wine with fish.)

5) Heavy wine matches heavy dishes. (Think filet mignon with cabernet.)

6) Regional wines match regional foods. (Think French wine with French food, Italian wine with Italian food, etc.)

The second level of pairing wines with food is more advanced. Some rules of thumb are:

1) Fatty or salty dishes need dry wines with crisp acidity.

2) This one is challenging, but you can contrast wine and food to offset separate flavors.

3) Buttery or creamy sauce needs buttery or creamy wine.

4) Your dessert wine always should be sweeter than your dessert.

5) Offer a coffee or espresso after dinner to help aid with digestion.

The usual suspects when it comes to what drinks go with what food are milk and cookies, English scones and tea, and doughnuts and coffee. Pretty simple. Based on my research, the world of pairing wine and food is a very interesting and complex endeavor. I hope these simple tips make your next dinner party a success. Happy eating and drinking!

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