The rule of thumb "red wine with red meat and white wine with fish and poultry," does apply. But with regional and fusion dishes becoming more common, there is more to consider. Not to mention, we are no longer in a world of the generic red and white table wines. The wine world opened up the wonderful world of varietals, each with its own complex taste profiles that will work well with various types of food.
There are some basic guidelines to follow so that your food and wine complement each other. Essentially, the goal is to balance the flavors from both so that neither is more overpowering than the other. Remember, nothing is set in stone, and best test of what pairs well, is your own palate.
* '''Regional wines''' plus '''regional foods''' equals a safe bet. For example, pair a Spanish paella with a Rioja.
* '''Weight''': Try matching your wine's body with that of the main dish. White goes with light seafood and poultry, while red goes with fuller-flavored red meats, lamb, and some poultry.
** Chilled foods usually need a lighter wine than hot foods.
* '''Flavors''': Foods vary in intensity and character, thus the wine should complement that aspect as well. Don't try to match a wine with a side dish or to a dressing or sauce, especially one that has a vinegar base, unless it is what is giving the main flavor to the dish. For example, a curry chicken emphasizes the curry, not the chicken. Foods to avoid matching up: artichokes, capers, chocolate, eggs, fennel, horseradish, lemon, olives, spinach, tomatoes, truffles, and yogurt.
** '''Sweet''': The sweetness in food increases awareness of bitterness and astringency in wine, making it appear dryer, stronger and less fruity. Sweet foods need a sweeter, fruitier wine. Sweet foods make dry wine taste bitter and over-acidic. Sweet wines (usually dessert wines) are not recommended for a main meal. You want to make sure to balance the sweetness, so don't pair wine with food that is sweeter.
** '''Acid''': High amounts od acide in foods will decrease the sourness in wine, making it taste richer and mellower. For example, sweet wine will taste sweeter with acid food.
** '''Bitter''': Bitter flavors increase the tannic elements of wine.
** '''Sour''': Sour and salt suppress the bitter taste in wine.
** '''Salt''': can also tone down the bitterness and astringency in wines, thereby making sweet wines taste sweeter. Salty foods, such as appetizers and certain cheeses, are best paired with dry, acidic wine low in tannins (very important) or a slightly sweet wine. Try a Sauternes or Beaujolais.
** '''Spice''' The spicier the food, the more fullbodied a wine can be.
** '''Fat''': For foods with a high fat content, opt for a wine that is high in tannins, such as a Cabernet Sauvignon. The tannins will cut down the fat proteins and refresh your palate, kind of like a salad after a meal or ginger between bites of sushi. Highly acidic wines will also help to cut down oils in fatty foods. Think of an acidic wine paired with salmon as a bit of lemon juice.
** '''Cream''': Look for a wine that has aged in oak barrels to bring out a buttery flavor.
Hosting a Dinner Party
If you are planning to host a dinner party and pair numerous wines with the courses, there are a few guidelines to follow. Always serve dry wine before sweet wine; white should go before red; young before old; simple before complex; and light before heavy. And if for any reason you are unable to stick to these rules make sure you offer your guest a palate cleanser to ease them into the next wine.