Weir Cooking in the City: Top Ten Tips on Food and Wine Pairing

1. The weight and style of the food and the wine should match. Pair a grilled New York steak with a robust Cabernetóboth are big in style and weight. Blue cheese and port or late-harvest winesóboth have big, intense flavors. Sautéed sole in a light lemon butter would be really good alongside a delicate but rich Chardonnay.

2. Conventional wisdom used to hold that white wines went with white meat (chicken, pork, and fish) and red wines went with red meat (beef and lamb). But now I think more about matching the components of the dish than the meat itself. For example, if I'm serving a chicken breast with a romesco sauce or an olive relish, chances are that a lighter red wine will work.

3. Dishes from a certain region tend to go with wine from the same region. For example, in Provence, most of the white wines are lighter and go very well with clams, shrimp, and fresh fish out of the Mediterranean; in Tuscany the wine is predominately Sangiovese and it's higher acidity pairs quite well with tomato-based sauces and many meat dishes.

4. Less oaky wines are easier to pair with food; the oak flavor of a big Chardonnay, for example, can obliterate the fruit, which is why I like wines with just a kiss of oak.

5. Salt can bridge the flavors of sweet, sour, and bitter in food and make a dish more wine friendly.

6. Acidity is a friend. It brings out the fruit in the wine that pairs well with food.

7. Some people assume "food and wine pairing" implies only one match. This isn't correct; there are many possible matches. Try different combinations and discover what you like.

8. Sparkling wine is really food-friendly. So if all else fails, choose sparkling wine or champagne.

9. Don't be afraid to ask the advice of others, including the chef or server in a restaurant.

10. Drink what you like to drink with what you like to eat. It's your palate and that means you tend to crave certain flavors which, in turn, are likely to go together.

Recipe ©2004 Joanne Weir from Weir Cooking in the City, reprinted by permission.