Pairing wine with food is an art form. For food and wine lovers, a perfectly prepared meal with a perfectly paired wine is quite satisfying. Intimate dinners often feature courses that are paired with wine. Some pairings are quite simple while others require a refined palate. With a little knowledge, you too can create perfect wine pairings for your intimate dinners.
When designing a menu, certainly your chef can offer suggestions and assistance. But if you are not a master sommelier and have to pair your own wines, there are some simple measures you can take to be on your way.
If you are lucky enough to have a wine director on staff, ask him to teach you the basics of wine varietals and regions. Wine pairings have quite a bit to do with their country of origin.
A wine class may be a good beginning for a novice. Wine classes are frequently taught at culinary centers, adult education classes, and community centers. Check with the instructor about the subject material before signing up for the class. Tell the instructor exactly what you hope to learn from her class. An extensive class about Oregon pinot noir probably will not benefit you if you are just starting out.
If taking a class is too daunting at this stage in your career, become your own instructor. Invest in a few good wine books. Ask for recommendations from colleagues in the industry. Utilize the Internet for research. Some wine Web sites offer food pairings as well as wine descriptions.
Sometimes asking your chef about a wine pairing is all you need. Even if the chef has no interest in wine, she may still be knowledgeable about the subject. Chefs are trained to pair wines with cuisine in culinary school. If the chef studied abroad, chances are she picked up some information along her travels.
Wine is typically matched to the cuisine after the menu has been decided. Occasionally you may have a client who would like to feature a few special bottles from his wine cellar. In this case, ask the chef to pair the cuisine to the wine. Depending on the type of menu the chef is serving, you may get some clues to a wine pairing.
What if my client requests a wine that does not pair with the menu?
Not all wine pairs easily with food. New World wines (wines from Australia, United States, and South America that don't have as long a history as wines from Europe) do not pair as easily with their Old World counterparts in cuisine. If the California cabernet matched up with the filet mignon isn't to a guest's liking, offer to pour a French Bordeaux alongside.
Wines pair easily with cuisine from the same region. This is because the grapes grow in the same soil as the produce. For example, oyster shells fossilized in the soil of Chablis, France, make this white wine a perfect combination with oysters.