When it comes to wine pairing, there aren’t many rules that we’re particularly picky about. For the most part, we say that if it tastes good to you, then it’s a perfect pairing. Even so, some people will insist on finding the “right” pairing. The general goal of wine pairing is to highlight certain flavors in the food that coordinate well with flavors in the wine. That’s where generalities like, “red meat- red wine” comes from. For those wanting to traditionally pair their wine with appropriate foods, getting started can feel overwhelming. Here’s a look at a few common pairing mistakes that most people, even experienced wine drinkers, are prone to make.
Champagne and Cake
Specifically, chocolate cake. The line of logic makes sense. Dessert style wines with dessert, right? While sparkling wine can complement some food beautifully, chocolates just aren’t on that list. The sweetness of the chocolate will do battle with the tartness of the sparkling wine. The result is a power struggle in your mouth that never ends in a peace treaty.
Chardonnay and Goat Cheese
Chardonnay is the most popular white wine in America. And wine and cheese go together like best friends. Perhaps that’s why so many try to pair goat cheese with Chardonnay. The result isn’t pretty though, as the strong flavors of the cheese blow away the delicate, buttery oak flavors in a good Chardonnay. Do yourself a favor, when it comes to goat cheese, insist on Zinfandel.
Spicy food with High Alcohol Wines
Spicy food is hard to pair, period. But pairing spicy food with wines that have a higher alcohol volume is particularly unpleasant. The result is that you’re left with the flavor of burnt food in your mouth- gross! Instead, focus on a white wine, generally with a lower alcohol content and even a little sweetness.
Caviar and Cabernet
Extravagant meets extravagant in this pairing. It’s not hard to understand the allure, especially when fine caviar is not something most of us experiment with on a regular basis. But trust us, the rich complexity of this pairing is just overkill. Instead, think about a delicate wine that will allow the dainty flavors of the fish eggs to shine on their own.
Pinot Noir and Vinegar
Pinot noir plays nicely with almost everything. This red is less bold than the rest, and can even go with fish. One thing you shouldn’t put with pinot though, are dishes high in vinegar. Vinegar has such a strong essence that it will overwhelm and break down the fruitiness of Pinot Noir. The result is a flat wine and an underwhelming experience. Keep the Pinot for more mild dishes, instead.
Another way that you can totally blow it on a pairing experiment? Being closed minded. Fish can, indeed, pair with red wines if done properly, and not all cheeses will enjoy a dry red. Opening your mind to the possibility that there is more than one perfect wine match for any food out there will only enhance your enjoyment. Pay attention to the flavors of the wine and of the food as individuals, making sure to not overpower one with the other. And, when in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask a wine steward (or the internet) for help.