No one wants to spoil a delicious meal by choosing wine that overpowers the delicate flavours of the dish or gets lost amongst rich spices and acidic overtones, but how do you know what type of wine would complement your meal?
You don't need to know the intricate differences between a rioja and a chardonnay to enjoy a good glass of wine with your meal. Simply choose a wine that shares the dominant characteristics of your meal and balances the flavours. For example, pair acidic dishes such as lemon linguine with an acidic wine such as a sauvignon blanc. Here are some easy-to-follow guidelines when pairing food with wine:
Poultry dishes served with a creamy sauce require wine with a full flavour to complement the rich sauce, so opt for a white burgundy or a bold chardonnay. Fried poultry dishes can be heavy, so they work well with a wine that will gently cleanse the palate such as a sauvignon blanc. Game birds require a full flavoured wine to complement the essence of the meat, so choose a pinot noir to round out the gamey flavour without overshadowing it.
Grilled steak requires a wine that can match the deep flavour of the meat and balance the fat, which can spoil the flavour of some wines. You need a wine with a decent tannin content for steak dishes, which will cleanse your palate between bites, so try a merlot, shiraz or cabernet sauvignon.
Ordering beef in a rich sauce such as creamy peppercorn requires a wine with an even fuller flavour, so consider a zinfandel or malbec. Beef in a tomato sauce requires an acidic wine to balance the sauce, but it needs to be flavourful enough to complement the beef. Chianti is ideal for acidic red meat dishes.
Mild flavoured fish such as sole or cod requires a wine that won't overpower the delicate nature of the fish, so stick to a sauvignon blanc or a vinho verde. Fish with a stronger flavour such as tuna work well with chardonnay, while the distinct flavour and higher fat content of salmon is best enjoyed with a crisp pinot gris or a pinot noir with hints of red berries.
Choose your wine according to the main vegetable or ingredient in your meal and the type of sauce it's served with. The earthy flavour of mushrooms and potatoes work well with a full-bodied red such as a merlot or rioja, while caramelised onions and crisp, fresh asparagus require an aromatic white such as a sauvignon blanc.
The next time you visit a restaurant like Empire Grill, simply remember to pair your food with a wine that has similar characteristics, choose an acidic wine for acidic sauces, opt for a tannin-rich wine if eating fatty meats, and a full-bodied wine to complement rich, creamy sauces.