My own feelings on matching food and wine are rather conflicted. Personal preference, the sort of wines that we enjoy drinking should always rule the day.
That said, I always get loads of requests from people who would like a guide on how to match food and wine – although some foods are totally unsuitable for any wine pairing. I remember trying to match Vindaloo curry with a bottle -it totally murdered the wine flavours. Still, I learnt my lesson!
For a long time the accepted wisdom was that white wine goes with fish and red wine with meat. That was as complex as food matching needed to be! It was a useful rule of thumb when fish came poached or simply grilled and red wine meant wines from the Bordeaux and Burgundy region of France; now that we eat food and drink wine from all over the world it’s an unduly restrictive approach.
However, there are some sound scientific reasons for matching certain foods with particular wines – its not all convention and pretention. Salt for example in fish, has natural affinity with the acidity present in white wines, the flavours of both are enhanced when eaten together. Tannin, the substance present in red wines has an affinity with protein in red meat; it softens the sometimes astringent nature of red wines. Chocolate makes red wine taste bitter as sugar does not react well with the tannins.
So then, when pairing wines with food, you don’t need to drill down to the level of the fine nuances to make an informed choice. All you need are a few simple pairing rules.
The most important thing to remember is to pair light wines (Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc) with lighter foods, such as fish, chicken and creamy sauces, and match full-bodied wines (Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon) with bolder foods, such as beef, game or pasta sauces.
Traditionally, this rule has been simplified: white wines with fish and chicken and some pork, and reds with beef and game. That’s arguably a good rule of thumb to follow, but with a bit of experience, you’ll find you can break the mold a little! — Some nice light-bodied reds go well with chicken and/or fish.
Hopefully this has given the community some ideas to get you started. It’s fun to experiment, let us know about any of the more unusual combinations that you have tried.