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5 Food & Wine Pairing Rules

Pairing wine with food is one of the joys in life!

I love cooking a good meal and picking a delicious wine to go with it. There are certain general rules to follow with food and wine pairing. But, sometimes when you defy those rules and go with what you love, you’ll make a match that is surprisingly delicious!

Four general food and wine paring rules to follow:

1. Acid needs acid. Any food with a high acid level, needs a high acid wine to stand up to it. Think of a red sauce pasta dish (tomatoes are high in acid) tasting great with a high acid Sangiovese.

2. Tannins need fat. Tannins are the astringent component in red wine that give it structure. Tannins also leave that drying, puckering feeling in your mouth after you finish a drink of wine. Cabernet Sauvignons are known for having high tannins and pairing them with high fat foods like steak help smooth out the tannins resulting in a smoother mouthfeel.

3. Choose regional wines and regional foods. Wines and foods produced in the same region are generally great together. A fantastic regional paring to put on your must try list is Sancerre with a goat cheese from the same area. Sancerre is a small wine district in central France famous for its crisp, aromatic white wines made from Sauvignon Blanc. It is also known for its high-quality goat cheeses, which are an excellent match for the local wine. To understand how great wine and food from the same area can be, try this match.

4. Wine should be sweeter than food. If you don’t follow this rule, your wine will taste bitter and tart and you will never want to drink a Chardonnay with chocolate cake again - please don’t try that at home.

5. If all else fails, just drink what you like. Open a bottle you like, share with people you love and you can’t go wrong.

Some pairings just defy odds and all else goes out the window except the drink what you like rule. I happen to LOVE sausage and fennel risotto. It’s easy to make, doesn’t take too long and impresses dinner guests. Not to mention my kids love it. I’m sharing my favorite risotto recipe with you here.

The recipe calls for ½ cup dry white wine, so I choose Bainbridge Vineyards 2013 Madeleine Angevine for three reasons - because it’s delicious, it’s dry and I don’t cook with anything I won’t drink. This dry, crisp wine typically tastes great with oysters and lighter seafood dishes, but it tasted great with this risotto. This food and wine match doesn’t follow any of the typical wine and food pairing rules except drink what you like. I included the Madeleine Angevine in this risotto because I like both and thought the delicate wine might pair nicely with this not too rich dish. Sometimes it just works and this time it did.

The next time you’re hosting a dinner party, surprise your guests with a bottle of unique, dry, white wine to pair with this risotto. I’d love to hear what wine you used in this dish and how it turned out.

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