Menus & Entertaining

How to pair the right wine with your meal

By: Jacqueline Kovacs

Getty Images Author: Canadian Living Credits: Getty Images

Menus & Entertaining

How to pair the right wine with your meal

By: Jacqueline Kovacs

Here's a quick update for your social rulebook: not only can you wear white after Labour Day, but you can also drink it, too. Sure, the temperatures might be dipping, but that doesn't mean your favourite white wines have to nose dive till spring. The right whites, explains Dave Edmonds, senior winemaker for New Zealand's award-winning Nobilo wines, will enhance certain hearty fall and winter meals and can serve as the perfect aperitif.

"You get the wine on your palate, and you notice a juicy acidity," Edmonds says of Nobilo's Marlborough Savignon Blanc, "and what that means is its acidity is very juicy, very approachable, very easy on the palate. That acidity gets the salivary glands going, so it's an easy segue into food."

The white match

But which foods? A fresh, crisp sauvignon blanc goes well with light seafood, lemony chicken dishes and pastas with tomato-based sauces. But don't feel limited by convention. "If you want to inject some bright fresh fruit into any meal or get the salivary glands going," says Edmonds, "this kind of wine works well.  In New Zealand, over Christmas, we have turkey and ham and heavy food, so it's really nice to serve something like bright and tropical, just to mix it up."

Not a fan of white wines, regardless of the meal? Try a Chianti. Its acidity will work the same way with lemony or tomato-y dishes. The rationale: acidic food is best paired with acidic wine. Here are some other food-and-wine combinations "rules" worth a try.

Big red
Why do people swear by a full-bodied red with a juicy steak or prime rib? Because the higher quantity of tannins in reds give the wines their dryer taste, which lends itself well to the fattier content of red meats.

That doesn't mean, though, that any non-white meat automatically tastes better with red wine. Everything can change with a cream sauce, upping the fatty factor, or a lemony sauce, making a dish more acidic. So a rich pork roast might be perfect with a pinot noir, but a pork casserole with apples would be delish with a chenin or chardonnay.

Hot and sugary
Love your spicy foods? Purists say to think cold and sweet when it comes to wine. The chill of the wine will physically cool your mouth and the sweetness helps to coat your tongue, reducing some of the spicy burn. But other foodies have paired dry reds—such as Shiraz and zinfandel—and found it to be a good, hot combo.

A sweet ending
Why are so-called dessert wines so sweet? Because generally your drink should be sweeter than your post-dinner treat for maximum taste enjoyment. If you're not crazy about high-sugar wines, opt for a demi-sec Champagne or sip a Ruby and Crusted Port or a dry Sherry.

For more on food and wine, check out how you can host a wine and cheese party.
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How to pair the right wine with your meal

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