The Rules of Wine Pairings


White wine with fish, red wine with beef. That is the extent of knowledge most people have. However, since discovering a few wines that we really enjoy, it is time to learn a few very basic rules on selecting a wine.

If you are looking for advanced information, then this “primer” may bore you. However, for the rest of you who may not know the first thing about wine, here are a few very basic guidelines.

The trick to selecting a wine to go with your meal is to heighten the sensory experience. Contrast is the key in many cases, while in others, a complimentary taste may work beautifully. It is like putting sour cream on a hot, spicy burrito to even out the heat, or enjoying a sharp cheddar cheese with a sweet apple.

  • The first rule is that rules are made to be broken. Some of the best pairings are happy accidents. If you have a wine that you just adore, enjoy it.
  • Price is not an indicator of pleasure.
  • Some of the most amazing wines are found in small obscure wineries, not in France, but in rural towns across the United States.
  • Start with a dry rose and appetizers. Rose is not a white or a red, but somewhere in the middle. It is light, and will pair with a variety of foods without overwhelming them. This is great when you have an assortment of hors d'oeuvres.
  • Try to match the depth of your food with an equally intense wine. If you choose a light wine, and a heavy, mouthy-feeling food, you will lose the wine. If you grab a deep, rich wine with a light salad or delicate seafood, you won’t taste the salad.
  • Try a Riesling with spicy foods to help tone down the heat. This works great for Asian dishes that have a little extra kick.
  • Enjoy a deep red such as a Cabernet with red meats such as beef or duck. The dryness will counter the richness of the meat. You might enjoy this with a saucy beef stir-fry.
  • Match the sauce to the wine. Light sauce; light wine. Dark, rich sauce; deep, rich wine.
  • Try a burgundy with a mushroom sauce or other “earthy” food.
  • Moscato is a great finish with dessert; unless you are having chocolate. Try a cabernet with that.
  • If you purchase a wine that you can’t stand to drink, use it in cooking or make an amazing wine jelly. Some of the worst wines make the best jellies. If you have never tried wine jelly, you may be in for another whole level of wine enjoyment.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask.

Enjoying a gastronomic delicacy or a series of them is one thing. Adding a decadent wine or two may take it over the top.

Most of all, experiment. Wine isn’t all about seriousness. Have some fun with it. Life, like wine, is meant to be savored. Enjoy!

For an intimate meal in one of the Port City’s longest running restaurants in Downtown Mobile, make a reservation to Noja. We have both indoor and outdoor seating in a secluded area just steps off Dauphin Street in LODA at 6 N. Jackson Street. To reserve a table now, call 251-433-0377. Learn more about our cuisine and offerings at or on our Facebook page.

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