Compared to just a few decades ago, we are living in a foodie and wine lover’s heyday. We can peruse grocery store aisles with choices from around the world and opt for a dinner out on the town featuring the flavors of Thailand, Italy, India, Japan and more.
All of these choices are exciting to the palate, for sure, but they also provide a dizzying variety of options when it comes to food and wine pairings.
There was a time when it was rather straightforward: pair regional wine with regional food. It would have been rare to have someone order a California Cabernet Sauvignon to pair with spaghetti bolognese.
Even with all of our options, I am still a believer in “when in Rome” philosophy for a safe starting point. But it is not always that simple. Case in point: How many wines from Thailand can you name? But there are a few steady tips to follow, making it easy to find an ideal pairing.
Wine and food pairing is very easy and straightforward for most Italian dishes. Rich cheese sauce and high-acidity tomato sauces found in many Italian dishes make an almost ideal match with any wine. With antipasti, fish and seafood dishes, consider neutral white wines such as Orvieto and pinot grigio. For the more robust roasted and red meats and cheeses, consider Sangiovese, Barbera or a cabernet sauvignon from California, Australia or Argentina.
- 2013 Candoni Pinot Grigio, Italy (about $12 retail)
- 2011 Monti Barbera d’Alba, Italy (about $58 retail)
French cuisine, as is Italian, is a very wine-friendly match-up. With oysters or seafood, consider a chardonnay or sauvignon blanc. For pate and other charcuterie, a light red such as Beaujolais or a regional vin de pays. For classic coq au vin, daube and other dishes cooked in wine, choose a wine similar to the one used in the dish, generally a light-bodied red such as merlot, gamay or pinot noir.
- 2013 Chateau Bonnet Blanc, France (about $15 retail)
- 2010 Chateau Coutet Grand Cru, France (about $36 retail)
Heat is the rule breaker for most Indian food. As I have advised before, if the dish is very high in heat, you are better off drinking a beer. The spicy heat will make an average red wine with 13.5 percent alcohol feel like it has double the alcohol and cause a burning sensation in your mouth. Avoid full-bodied high-alcohol reds. But with most dishes, white wines such as California chardonnay, Australian semillon or even roses are safe bets.
- 2014 Matchbook Chardonnay, California (about $12 retail)
- 2014 Franciscan Napa Valley Chardonnay, California (about $24 retail)
Japanese food is not exactly wine-friendly, but successful pairings are possible. Very dry whites such as chablis, muscadet or sparkling wines are the best match. Each of these pair with raw fish such as sushi and sashimi, but also work well with tempura. Meat dishes or those made with teriyaki sauce pair well with a soft, fruity medium-bodied red wine such as merlot.
- NV Treveri Cellars Blanc de Blanc, Washington (about $14 retail)
- 2013 Christian Moreau Chablis, France (about $32 retail)