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How to choose wines to go with foods

So many wine choices today may leave you wondering which wines really goes with what foods. Here are a few suggestions that will make wine selection easier.

You should always select wines that you like and that are within your budget. Many inexpensive wines are available that will be to your and your guests' liking.

Wines can be identified and placed in groups that include: nutty, woody, earthy, spicy, fruity, and floral. Even if you do not have the depth of knowledge of some wine connoisseurs, you can still learn a few basics that will help in your wine selection.

Wine should never overpower the food that is served, nor should the choice of food overwhelm a wine. You can complement your food and wine or provide a contrast - one that creates a balance between sweet and spicy or salty and sour, for instance. You are aiming for a nice balance. Just remember that no two people will taste food or wine in quite the same way.

When you visit your local vendor, don't hesitate to talk to the wine expert - these knowledgeable folks are almost always friendly and ready to help. If someone intimidates you, then it is time to find another shop. Never feel that a bottle of wine that is priced under $10 is without merit, especially if you enjoy a glass or two on a daily basis. You may discover some great party wines in this price range and some of the lower-end wines are fun to purchase when experimenting with different tastes. If you discover a preference for a certain type of wine, then you can always "upgrade" to a higher price point.

If you are just venturing into wine and food pairings, start with the basic flavors of both.

It is always easiest to begin with appetizers. Don't choose exotic appetizers and cheeses unless you have sampled them first and know what types of flavor to expect. Gourmet cheeses are wonderful, and safe bets include chevre, gouda, aged cheeses, Brie, and cheddars. Plan on a three-cheese combination if your wine selection is limited; five if you plan to offer a variety of reds and whites.

Red wines that go well with cheeses include Merlot and Pinot Noir. Some reds may be too bold for lighter cheese selections. A dry rose is a good fit for softer cheeses, and proper white wine pairings include Riesling and Sauvignon blanc.

If you are serving Port or other type of dessert wine, try a Stilton or Parmigiano-Reggiano. Add a melon-type fruit and you have the perfect after-dinner food.

Wine tastings can be a fun way to discover new wines. They can be casual and quite educational. Invite your friends to bring their favorite wine or to pick one they have never tried. Plan on light foods for a wine tasting, such as fruits, crackers, cheeses, and breads. Cover the bottles in plain wrappers and concentrate on the flavors and sensation. What tastes sweet on the tip of your tongue may acquire a bold tart flavor further inside your mouth. You can begin to develop a personal palate for wines this way, especially from the discussion of each bottle.

Now we can discuss some of the basic wine groups and the foods that work best with each. Once you are comfortable with these pairings, you can begin to branch out.

Merlot is a full-bodied red that is a popular choice for red meat and pasta. Serve Merlot with Italian and Chinese foods, steaks and roasts with strong side dishes.

Cabernet is another strong red that can best be partnered with barbecued and grilled foods such as ribs.

Pinot Noir can easily be matched to a wide range of foods. While it is a red wine, it makes a good fit for salmon and is equally at home with meats, sausages, and tomato-based dishes. It is a champion with any hot, spicy food as well. If you are going to have only one wine, this may very well be the best choice.

Chardonnay is a wonderful white that can range from fruity to buttery with many palettes in between. It is classified as a dry white wine and should be served with seafood and pasta dishes. It is also highly recommended for pairing with chicken.

Sauvignon blanc, another popular choice, pairs well with shellfish, turkey, and salads.

Zinfandels can be labeled either white or red. They are not always found to be acceptable to true wine collectors, but can be the perfect drink for picnics and pizza parties. Zins can also pair up with spicy dishes.

Champagne, as with any sparkling wine, goes well with appetizers, desserts, and many main dish meals.

You can increase your wine enjoyment and expertise over time, but always remember to drink what you like and serve it when you wish, with the foods you enjoy, regardless of the "rules."


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