Unless you are a wine connoisseur, choosing the perfect wine for your perfect dinner date can be a daunting task and the wine lists at most restaurants lack the information you need to make the best decision. The options are endless and the differences can be subtle.
This link goes to Food and Wine, which wrote about the subject. But I thought I'd write about it, too. Although I'm not as "authoritative" as they are, here are some general rules to follow when choosing your wine.
First off, should you consider wine or beer with your meal? Although wine is best paired to the meal, beer has a lot of diversity and fits with most anything. And, it can be more affordable, too. A good bottle of wine is expensive, much less than a good bottle of beer. (When I say good, I'm not talking about the 24-pack that cost $9 bucks and is in a 21-year-old's college dorm room beer fridge on Friday night.) Sure, craft beer at the local pub can be a bit pricey, but it's worth it. Is there a definite answer? There's only shades of grey. Let's talk about wine pairings.
Vegan main dishes are becoming more popular in restaurants across the globe as the benefits of vegan diets are getting more publicity. Knowing what wines will improve your dishes palate can make a huge difference in the whole experience of dining out.
When you are opting for vegetable main dishes, it is best to stick with a dry white wine. This is simply because vegetable dishes often have subtle flavors that can be over powered by a rich wine. Another good choice when serving vegetables as the main course is a sparkling white wine.
Roasted vegetables are also often served with dry white wines but can be paired nicely with a good light red or even a bold red when the flavors in the sauces are more robust.
Meat courses are usually what most of us think about when we think of main dishes. The meat dish can range in intensity and so the wines you should choose should likewise vary.
Fish should only be served with a white wine. Reds are just too rich and will not do the fish dish justice. Do not choose a particularly sweet wine though as it will confuse the palate and ruin the experience. The only exception is when serving a rich fish, or seafood such as crab or lobster, in which case a nice light red is most satisfying.
Pork and poultry do well with a rich white or a light to medium red. The rule here is to avoid extremes. You don't want anything too dry or too sweet, nor do you want a rich red wine. It would simply steal the show and your main course will seem pale and plain in comparison.
It's a simple thing to remember but it will save you a lot of trouble in the long run: red meat= red wine- the bolder the better, but if you are not fond of really bold reds, a medium red will do the trick. The point is that only red wines will stand up to the deep and full flavors of red meat. Anything else is like drinking water.
Cured meats should also be paired with reds although they will do nicely with a rich white or a dessert wine as well.
Carbohydrates are the fillers of most meals. Sometimes, they fill so much space, they are the main point of the meal, this is true in the case of most pasta dishes. The really great thing about these starch heavy meals is that you really can't go wrong with your wine choices. Carbs love wines and vise-verse. Go ahead and order your favorite. It will work out fine. The only exception is the really sweet wines, like the sweet white and the dessert wines. Save those for dessert.
This is what sweet wines were made for. If you waited until dessert to order your wine, you waited too long but just in case you did- this is where a sweet white wine or a dessert wine will really make you smile.
Okay, so maybe you don't want a full meal. Maybe you just want to order a glass of wine and nibble on a cheese plate. No problem.
Cheese and wine are old friends. Both are beloved by connoisseurs and both taste better with age. Choosing the right wine for your cheese plate is not as difficult as it may seem. Like meats, cheeses take on different characteristics and like meats, this means that different wines will bring out those flavors.
Soft Cheeses: Soft cheeses run the show. Try to avoid a really dry wine as it can wash out the simple, creamy flavors of the cheese. Instead, when choosing a white, pair it with a sweet white, a rich white or a sparkling white. Avoid reds, unless you are going for a dessert wine, which will change the experience of the cheese dish but not in an unappetizing way.
Hard Cheeses: Like with soft cheeses, you really want to to stay away from dry white wine, instead, choose a sweet, rich or sparkling variety. Likewise, avoid the light reds. You can play it safe with a medium red of go ahead and go for the bold red wine. You won't regret it.
Photo: Jing from Flickr