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Matching Food with Wine (and Beer)


by Liana Bennett

What do Oreos and milk have in common with food and wine?  Both are perfect marriages of flavor.  Wine and food have been paired together for as long as both have been around.  Not only does wine make the occasion more festive, it is also a great digestif for the meal. Many worry about what wine goes with what food.  The best recommendation is to eat and drink what you like. However, for those of you with an adventurous palate, this edition of The BAR will help you to decipher choices when it comes to food and wine pairing.

Liana’s Food and Wine Guide
     We hear a lot of talk today about “new” guidelines for food and wine pairing.  However, the old adage is still great advice - white wine with white meat and red wine with red meat.  Beyond that, think light wines with light dishes and robust wines with robust dishes. 
     Choosing regional wines when serving regional foods is the perfect match.  Nothing goes better with an Italian pasta dish than an Italian wine, or a coastal region wine with fish.  
If all else fails, choose a Pinot Noir, an Italian Chianti or a dry Riesling.  These three wines can go with just about any dish.

Food Choices
• Merlot - lamb, pork, tuna, Italian meat sauces
• Pinot Noir - ham, turkey, duck, just about anything
• Zinfandel -spicy sausage, hamburgers, blackened fish
• Cabernet Sauvignon - roast, prime rib, steak
• Chardonnay - creamy pastas, chicken dishes, honey baked ham, risotto
• Pinot Grigio - chicken breast, veal, shrimp, light white cream sauce
• Sauvignon Blanc - veal, ham, fish, shellfish
• Sparkling wines - baked ham, bacon, sushi, fruits, Asian fair

Wine Choices
• Beef - Cab Sau, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Chianti
• Lamb - Sauvignon Blanc, Beaujolais
• Fish - Light Chard, Sauv Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Gris
• Ham - Chenin Blanc, Gewutz, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir
• Veal - Light roses
• Chicken - Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Roses
• Shellfish - Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Chablis, Sauv Blanc

Ordering Wine in a Restaurant
     Contrary to what some may think, restaurants are in the business of making your experience with them as pleasurable as possible.  They want to make things easy for you, including choosing your beverage.  Hence the colorful drink menus and the wine suggestions listed next to the entrees. 
     Part of the problem begins when we have just sat down and the server asks us what we would like to drink.  The pressure is on to decide what kind of wine or other beverage to order.  I recommend having a cocktail to begin the meal.  This can help put you in a relaxing mood while you read the menu and have an appetizer.  Once you decide on your meal, then you can order a complimentary wine or other beverage. 
     We are lucky here in Michigan in that if we don’t finish our bottle of wine, we can have it recorked and bring it home with our leftover pasta.  However, if you do decide to order only a glass of wine, ask if the wine is a popular seller.  If it isn’t, you may run into a bottle that was opened last week and has now gone array.  You really want to be drinking a freshly opened bottle. 
     For any red wine ordered, make sure that you give it some airtime before you dive into it.  Whether you leave it in the opened bottle or put the glass aside for a while, either way, give it breathing time to get the best taste. 
     Every now and then you will get a bad bottle of wine, whether off the shelf or at a restaurant.  It happens.  But before you send it back, ask yourself if the wine really is bad or if you chose the wrong selection for your food or if you just don’t like it.  These are very different things.  If the wine truly is off, there shouldn’t be an establishment out that that won’t offer you a new bottle. But, if it is a case of you just not liking it, you may be out of luck.  Some restaurants feel that it is your responsibility to know what you like and don’t like.  If they make, or serve, a product that is good and others like it, they may take the stand that you are responsible.  However, that being said, I started out by saying that restaurants are in the business of making your experience a good one.  If you don’t like what you ordered, they could accommodate your tastes and offer you a new beverage (free of charge).  As my Mother always says, “it never hurts to ask,” and if they want you to return, they should give you another drink choice.  

Wine and Cheese
Peanut butter and jelly are the only two other foods that compliment each other as well as wine and cheese.  In fact, wine and cheese go so well together, we have parties just for them!  But not all wine and cheese marry well. White, fresh cheese should be served with a crisp, fruity wine. Rich soft cheeses need big whites or light reds.  Hard and dark cheeses compliment heavy rich wines and blue cheeses go well with sweet wines.  Leave perfumed, floral and highly tannic reds off the table.  These are too overpowering for any cheese. 

Beer - The Wine Alternative
Contrary to what some may tell you, wine doesn’t go with every food nor is it your only option.  Beer is fast becoming a popular choice to compliment a meal.  Ale can be compared to red wine while lager can be thought of as white wine.  In more simple terms, red meat with ales and white meat with lagers. 

• Shellfish - Wheat beers, American-style Pilsner
• Fish - Golden ale
• Red meats - Pale ales, nut brown ales, bitter ales
• Poultry - Lagers
• Pork- Amber ales
• Pizza and pasta - Amber ales
• Hot and spicy - Wheat, Pilsner, Mexican beer like Corona
• Dessert - Specialty beers like chocolate or fruit beers (Lambics)

Matching Factors
When you are thinking about what to drink with your meal, think about these factors to help with your decision:

• Mood - Casual, formal, romantic, friendly
• Environment - At home, restaurant, bar
• Company - Spouse, parents, boss or client
• Meal - Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack
• Food - Appetizers, sandwiches, entrees, desserts
• Expense - Who is paying? Is it worth the price?
• Personal Preference - If you don’t like it, don’t order it.  Order only what you will drink and enjoy.

The Beverage Alcohol Report - March 2006, Liana Bennett
The Beverage Alcohol Report (The BAR) was published on a monthly basis until May, 2006 compliments of Liana Bennett. Its main purpose was to further the knowledge, appreciation and general enjoyment of all alcoholic beverages. Your comments, questions and tasting stories can be sent to [email protected]

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