Part 1 of my “5 part series on Wine and Food Pairing” discussed Balance. The next item to consider in pairing wine and food is Rule #2 – What is the Dominant Flavor? When preparing a dish and deciding on what wine to match with it, you need to keep in mind what is the most outstanding flavor or ingredient in the dish, and pair the wine to that.
Let’s take chicken….that universal of all meats. How many dishes can be made with chicken?? Thousands I would imagine, and obviously not 1 wine/grape variety will work with all those dishes. Here are a few thoughts when matching a chicken dish to a wine….
- Are you using a cream or cheese sauce?
- Is the dish spicy?
- Does the recipe include tomatoes?
- What is the main spice used in the dish?
- How is the chicken cooked?
All these factor into what wine to pair with your chicken.
A chicken recipe that contains cream or cheese generally makes the dish rich. Therefore, you want your wine to be as rich. A buttery, oaked Chardonnay pairs well here as both complement each other’s “richness.” If the dish is spicy, you will want a sweeter wine to off-set the spiciness of the food. Good matches here would be a sweet or off-dry Gewurztraminer or Riesling, or a Rosé. If your recipe calls for tomatoes, you will want a red wine that can stand up to the acidity found in tomatoes. Sangiovese (remember Chianti is the region, not the grape), Barbera and numerous red blends are good pairings.
Think of all the spices/herbs that can be added to a chicken recipe. Ask yourself what is the main spice…curry, garlic, ginger, lemon, asian, or tropical, just to name a few, and then pair your wine to that ingredient. The way chicken is cooked also affects what wine you might match with it. Are you BBQing?? Usually BBQ sauces contain tomatoes, sugar and vinegar, and wines that pairs well with those ingredients include Syrah and Zinfandel. If you are frying or sauteing your chicken, you need a wine that “cuts the grease,” such as Sauvignon Blanc, a dry Riesling or a Grenache. If you are roasting a chicken, an oaked or unoaked Chardonnay works well, or a Pinot Noir if you are using any type of fruit sauce.
Remember that you can always add the same wine to your dish as you are serving with it. And of course, its always best to sample the wine prior to serving!! haha