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Choosing a wine to go with your dinner is such an important task that sommeliers often spend their entire professional career creating amazing pairings. Without their vast knowledge in the art of pairing food and wines, it is easy to get confused. When trying to figure out what to pair, the research can be tricky and can make your head spin. But, there are common rules and types of pairings that can make it much, much simpler. Rule of Thumb Here are some rules that sommeliers use when making pairings that are sure to help you out as well. Your wine should be more acidic and sweeter than your food, but have a similar flavor intensity. Acidity and sweetness can commonly be decided by the wine varietal, and the flavor intensity can be quickly found out through a google search. When eating meat, red wine usually pairs best with red meats, whereas white wines commonly pair better with white meats! This is a simple and easy way to choose between a white and red wine for your pairing. Bold, bitter wines, like a California cabernet sauvignon, are best matched with something fatty, like aged cow cheese, or a fatty cut of beef. Always consider the sauce when making your pairing. Whether it is a salad dressing or a steak marinade, it can affect the flavor profile of the dish, further affecting what wine you should be pairing with that dish. Type of Pairings There are three common types of pairings that you must understand when you are picking out a wine; complementary, congruent and contrast. Most types of wines have specific pairing types that work best, but with a common knowledge of each pairing type, you can decide for yourself how you are going to pair your dishes! Complementary For this type of pairing, you are looking for an aspect of the wine to bring to light certain characteristics of a dish. For example, an acidic white wine complements a cheesy and fatty dish. Congruent A congruent pairing is using similar characteristics of both wine and dish to create a symbiotic relationship between each. By doing so, the characteristics of the dish become bolder and more defined to the palate. An example of this would be an earthy red wine paired with a mineral seasoned steak with a side of mushrooms. Contrast The last type of pairing you need to understand is contrast. Using this method, you are taking both equal and opposite characteristics of food and wine to balance eachother out. An example of this, which is both unique and uncommon, is taking a spicy dish and pairing it with a sweet wine. It seems strange, but try it and see how the sweet and spicy flavors create a balanced pairing. Go Try it for Yourself Creating pairings takes practice. Getting to know your wines and dishes is not the easiest task, but with practice and a common understanding, it is something that can be learned, and over time, mastered. With these rules and understandings, you should have enough information to choose a wine that won’t overpower your dish, or undermine it. Good luck, and remember to follow the guideline above!
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