For service personnel who work in an establishment where the guests like to ask what is the best wine for a particular dish here are some points to consider upon selecting the best one.
1. Weight – match the weight of the food to the wine. For example a simple chicken breast with a white that has a low percentage of alcohol like a Bergerac from Bordeaux.
2. Intensity – fatty foods such as goose or duck would go well with a Riesling that has the acidity to cut through the fat yet still possesses the softness to take in the flavours of the dish at the same time. A goose liver pate comes to mind. Another example would be an Asti sparkling wine from Italy with a frothy dessert like a lemon meringue pie.
3. Acidity – match the acidity of the dish with the acidity of the wine. For example a citrusy salad dressing with the high acidity of a Sauvignon Blanc.
4. Sweetness – the rule of thumb is the wine has to be at least as sweet as the dessert or it will be thin and tart. Muscats from the south of France or Australian liqueur Muscats can match most sweet desserts. The weight of the sweet wine has to be taken into account as well which makes chocolate and ice cream difficult matches. I like the Fortified Wines for the chocolate with some raspberry on the palate like that Banyuls I did a couple of months ago. For ice cream that is a pretty tough one. Perhaps an ice wine from here in Canada would do the trick.
5. Tannin – occurs when your gums are being coated when tasting a Cabernet Sauvignon , the best match for a wine with lots of tannin would be a steak cooked on the rare side so the wine can match the chewiness of the dish.
6. National Dishes – when in doubt look at where the dish comes from and match it to the local wine. For example a Paella from Spain would go well with a wine from Rioja. Or , a Vinho Verde with it’s high acidity from Portugal would go well with sardines served with a lemon.
These are some ideas on how to match wine with food but if there is any general yardstick one should use is always choose a wine the guests prefers rather than have them try what you think they may like. There are no hard and fast rules and the customer knows best. Unless they entirely leave it up to you , ask questions as to what they want in a wine. Do they want red or white for starters. Light bodied or full bodied? Low acidity or high acidity? Don’t barrage them with too many questions just ask one for starters and listen. Help them make their own decision through suggestions , at least for me that is what works best. Give them a couple of choices. Let them decide in the end. Then the wine will always end up being a positive experience for the guest.
Hope some of these ideas work for you wherever you work or even at home when cooking up that special dinner.