Wine Wednesday: Wine Pairing 101

White wines with white meats (chicken, seafood, pork) and red wines with red meats (beef, lamb, pork); wait a minute, pork is listed twice! When your grandmother used to make meatloaf with a squeeze of ketchup or fried chicken with just a covering of flour in an oil-filled pan, the old adage was easy to follow. But as foods have become infused with flavors from around the world, we are left wondering, "What is the proper wine pairing for my meal?"

Although the basic rule gives us a starting point, here are some easy reference points to make your wine pairing experience a breeze.

1. Put it into color perspective. Considering the color of a wine offers you one of the easiest guidelines for food pairing. White wines that are lighter-colored are usually younger and more acidic; perfect for pairing with foods that are creamy, spicy, or light in flavor. Wines that are more yellow or golden tend to be creamier in flavor and are generally oak-aged; these are great for foods that are pungent, acidic, or sharp. Ruby-colored red wines are frequently fruitier and livelier; better suited for spicy, grilled, or "everyday" foods like that trusty meatloaf. Wines that skew towards purple or are inky in color are perfect for richer, fattier foods or those with earthy flavors.

2. Stick to a winery or brand you know. If you happen to love a chardonnay from a particular winery, then venture out and try some other wines from that winery. You probably like that chardonnay for a reason, meaning you probably will like their other wines, too. Once you've established a set of wines that you like, it becomes easier to find foods to pair them with. Why? The ease comes from your ability to describe what you like about the wine. When you can describe the wine, in your own words, you can then find the proper foods to have with it.

Let me use one of my favorite wineries as an example: Clos LaChance in California.



3. Stick to foods you know. When pairing food and wine, don't start with a food you've never had before. Don't get me wrong; it's great to try new foods and explore new textures and flavors, but it's not so good when you are trying to grasp the art of food and wine pairing. It's the same reason as sticking to a winery you know. When it's easy to describe the food you like, you can then find the proper wine to have with it.

Reference the tables above, starting from the right with the foods and work backwards to the wines. Once you are comfortable pairing your comfort foods, then venture out. Do you like pasta with Alfredo sauce? What happens when you add blackened chicken to the mix? Do you pair wine to the cream sauce or to the spicy blackening flavors? Now it's your adventure to try!

More on wine pairing:
How to pair wine with your favorite junk foods

Cecelia Messina is a certified sommelier. Her travels have allowed her to experience the wonders of wine, beer, spirits, and food. She first learned about wine in Argentina, fueling her desire to open a small, neighborhood wine boutique in 2001 and to share the world of wine with others.