Musings on Food and Wine Pairing

11th Annual Washington DC Wine & Food Festival Program Guide   February 11-15, 2010


By Louis Marmon

DC wine &food festivalWe all know the rules. Wine and food are meant to compliment each other. But the complexity of multiethnic cuisine and the subtlety of much of modern gastronomy have invalidated the traditional convention of “red with meat and white with fish.” There is really only one iron-clad rule: Drink what you like! Don’t be swayed by scores, prices or the presence of animals on the label.


Wine festivals are perfect places to expand one’s wine and food horizons. A request for food recommendations when tasting a specific wine will often include dishes from the same region. If you like the suggestion, give it a try at home. Especially if you can obtain the ingredients from family-run small farms that practice sustainable agriculture.


One way to start is by considering the dish in general terms such as savory, fatty, rich, acidic, mild, and spicy. Then look for a wine that matches its flavors and textures. Hearty fare goes with rich wines and more delicate entrees are best with lighter selections.


Beyond the generalities lie many possibilities. Every glass of wine is an opportunity to venture out of one’s comfort zone or to revisit a familiar friend.


There are as many examples as there are foods. Tomato-based dishes need the acidity found in many Italian-style red wines to balance the flavors. Light summer fare requires a more delicate wine like Sauvignon Blanc while buttery sauces are best paired with creamy Chardonnays with lower acidity.  Besides Cabernet Sauvignon, many red wines such as Malbec, Shiraz, and Merlot pair nicely with steak and other protein based dishes.


But be willing to experiment. Sparkling wines work well with a surprisingly wide range of foods. Being bold often pays off.  A sommelier once recommended a dry Rosé to drink with a classic Indian dish. It was delicious.

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