1. Taking wine as a gift to a dinner party. Unless you have enough information as to what is being served to make an informed choice don’t worry about matching the wine to the food, just bring a good wine. Match the quality of food and the wine, remember a formal dinner party with multiple courses of elaborately prepared dishes deserves a better wine than hamburgers on the grill.
2. Serving more than one wine at a meal. Always start with lighter wines before full-bodied ones. Lower alcohol wines should be served before higher alcohol wines. Dry wines should be served before sweet wines.
3. Balance flavor intensity. Pair light-bodied wines with light food and fuller bodied wines with heavier, more flavorful dishes.
4. Consider how the food is prepared. Delicately flavored foods pair best with delicate wines. Pair fuller, flavorful wines with more flavor intense foods such as braised, grilled, roasted or sauted dishes. Try to pair the wine with the sauce, seasoning or dominant flavor of the dish.
5. Match flavors. An earthy Pinot Noir from a warm region goes well with mushroom soup and the grapefruit/citrus taste of Sauvignon Blancs goes with white fish for the same reasons that lemon does.
6. Balance sweetness. Beware of pairing a wine with food that is sweeter than the wine, with one exception, chocolate goes great with Cabernet Sauvignon.
7. Consider pairing opposites. Hot or spicy foods, as an example some Thai dishes work best with sweet desert wines. Opposing flavors can play off each other, creating new flavor sensations and will cleanse the palate.
8. Match by geographic location. Very important, regional foods and wines, having developed together over time, often go well with each other.
9. Pair wine and cheese. Red wines go well with mild to sharp cheese, and pungent and intensely flavored cheese is better with a sweet wine. Goat Cheeses pair well with dry white wine, while milder cheeses pair best with fruiter red wine such as Sangiovese. Soft cheese like Camembert and Brie, if not over ripe, pair well with just about any red wine including Cabernet, Red Burgundy and Zinfandel.
10. Adjust food flavor to better pair with the wine. Sweetness in a food dish will increase the awareness of bitterness and astringency in most wine, making it appear drier, and less fruity. High amounts of acidity in food will in most cases decrease the sourness in wine and making it taste richer and a bit mellower, sweet wine will taste even sweeter.
Salad (with creamy dressing) – Chablis or Pinot Blanc.
Salad (with vinaigrette) – Sauvignon Blanc or a dry German Riesling.
Chicken Soup – Chardonnay, medium bodied, or Pinot Blanc.
Soup (creamy and fishy) – Chardonnay, fuller flavoured, Muscadet, or Pinot Grigio.
Creamy Chowder – Basic Chardonnay.
Chowder (tomato-based) – Italian reds, medium bodied.
Crab – Dry Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc.
Lobster – White Burgundy.
Salmon (Grilled) – Unoaked Chardonnay or Alsace Pinot Blanc.
Salmon (Poached) – Chablis or a dry white Bordeaux.
Salmon (Smoked) – Champagne to Chablis, Sauvignon Blanc to dry Riesling.
Barbecued Chicken – Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, or light red wines such as Beaujolais.
Chicken (with cream sauce) – White Bordeaux, Riesling from Alsace or New Zealand , or South African Chenin Blanc.
Roasted Chicken – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, or soft Merlot.
Lamb (casseroles, hotpots and meat stews) – Spicy French reds such as Vin de Pays d’Oc, Coteaux du Languedoc, or Cotes du Rhone.
Lamb Chops – Good quality reds from Rioja, Bordeaux , or Chianti, as well as New World Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Lamb Roast – Top quality Bordeaux and Burgundy . Alternatively, Rioja, Chianti and New World Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.
Mushroom Risotto – Full-bodied Italian wines such as Barolo, Chianti Classico and Brunelo di Montalcino.
Pasta (with creamy sauce) – Dry Italian white, Chardonnay (unoaked), Pinot Blanc, or Semillon.
Pasta (with tomato-based sauce) – Light Italian reds such as Valpolicella and Chianti.
Vegetarian Lasagne (with tofu) – Gewurtztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, or Riesling from Germany or the New World.