When it comes to pairing food and wine, methods range from the most basic to the scientific. Red wine with red meat and white with fish is a simple rule, and leaves the details to personal preference. Francoise Chartier, in his book Taste Buds and Molecules: The Art and Science of Food, Wine, and Flavor
, moves the process all the way to the molecular level. Somewhere in-between the two methods, you’ll find a variety of rules and advice for pairing. We’ll take a look at a few here, offer some suggestions from a local wine shop, and share some simple recipes to help you pull it all together.
Start With the Basics
Wine get its flavor from components such as sugar, acid, fruit, tannin and alcohol. The basic food tastes are sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and savory, also known as umami. Pairing food and wine with similar or contrasting components is key to successful pairing. While there are no hard-and-fast rules for pairing, some rules of thumb help to simplify the process. Have fun and don’t be afraid to try something new. You never know what flavor combinations will please your palette.
Ask an Expert
We reached out to local wine shop owner, Rick Meyerkopf. Rick and his wife Robin Lurie-Meyerkopf are co-owners of South Street & Vine
in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. A local shop can take the mystery out of pairing, and help you find the perfect bottle for your next dinner party or quiet dinner for two. Meyerkopf offered pairing suggestions for our recipes below.
Black Truffle Salted Steak
For our steak dinner, Meyerkopf suggested Tres Picos Garnacha from Spain. It is fermented in both oak and steel and aged in French oak prior to being bottled. “Lots of fruit such as black currant and cherries, big and bold. This selection pairs well with a juicy steak,” says Meyerkopf. We’ve seasoned our steak with Salt Cellar Black Truffle Salt
and black pepper. Keeping the ingredients simple allows the natural flavor of the steak and truffle salt to blend to perfection.
2 thick cut steaks
2 Tsp Salt Cellar Black Truffle Salt
1 Tsp coarse black pepper
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
Grilled Swordfish with Rosemary Salt
- Preheat grill to medium high heat. Spray with cooking spray
- Season the steaks with 1/2 teaspoon of black truffle salt on each steak, then sprinkle black pepper
- Grill for 3-4 minutes on each side. After steaks are done cooking, top each steak with 1/2 teaspoon of butter and sprinkle with remaining truffle salt
- Let rest for 5 minutes, slice and serve
A simple pairing rule for acidic food is that if you squeeze a lemon or lime on your food, pair it with a wine that is at least as acidic as the food, or the wine will taste bland. For our fish dinner, Meyerkopf suggested Pine Ridge. “It’s a blend of Chenin Blanc and Viognier from California, dry and crisp, and great with Seafood.” This marinade can be used on any fish that can stand the heat of the grill. Tuna, Salmon, and Snapper also work well.
3 Swordfish Steaks
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
2 Tsp. Salt Cellar Rosemary Infused Sea Salt
1/4 Tsp. Black Pepper
1 Heaping Tsp. Minced Garlic
1 tsp. chopped parsley
Icelandic Arctic Thyme Roasted Chicken
- Heat grill, Spray grill with cooking spray or brush with oil to prevent sticking
- While grill is heating make marinade.
- Mix olive oil, lemon juice, rosemary infused sea salt, pepper, garlic and parsley and stir.
- Place swordfish steaks on grill.
- Spread half of the marinade on top of the swordfish steaks and grill over hot heat 5-10 minutes.
- Cover grill.
- Turn steaks over and brush with remaining marinade.
- Cover grill again and grill fish another 5-10 minutes or until fish flakes easily with fork.
Chicken can be paired with either red or white wine, so the flavor of the sauce or other ingredients will determine the best wine. For our roasted our chicken, Rick suggests a Block Nine Pinot Noir. Meyerkopf explained, “Caiden’s Vineyards of California focus on one grape and produce one terrific wine - Pinot Noir. Soft and subtle this wine works really well with all types of chicken dishes.”
- 3 tablespoons Salt Cellar Arctic Thyme Sea Salt
- 1 1⁄2 teaspoons black pepper
- 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
- 3 pound roaster chicken, rinsed inside and out and patted dry with paper towel
- 1 whole lemon, pierced several times with a fork
- 4 cloves garlic
- 3 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
- Mix the salt and pepper
- Place the chicken on a rack in a roasting pan
- drizzle olive oil and rub the mixture all over the skin
- Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Put the whole lemon and garlic cloves inside the cavity of the chicken
- Roast, basting every 20 minutes or so with any fat and juices accumulating in the pan
- Chicken should be done in about an hour, but make sure by testing the thigh for a temperature of 170 degrees F.
- Let the chicken rest for at least 10 minutes before carving