Perfect Pairings

These tried-and-true wine and food combinations were practically made for each other.

Photo by: STEPHEN MURELLO

STEPHEN MURELLO

Steak and Cabernet Sauvignon

Why they're the perfect pair: Cabernet Sauvignon is high in tannin – the substance that leaves a chalky sensation on your teeth and dyes your mouth dark after drinking. The fat in a steak stands up to tannins and softens their impact, and the meat's bold flavor matches the big, fruity flavor of the wine.

Similar combinations to try: Red meat and red wine are a classic combination. Grilled steak would be delicious with an American red Zinfandel or a tannic or soft Merlot, while a pan-fried steak pairs well with fruitier reds like Australian Shiraz or a California, Oregon or Washington Merlot.

Oysters and Muscadet

Why they're a perfect pair:
Muscadet, which is made in western France and along the Atlantic coast, heightens the oysters' fresh flavor with its acidity.

Similar pairings to try: Mussels, clams, oysters and white fish like trout or skate are also delicious with lightly oaked Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc.

Spaghetti and Meatballs and Chianti

Why they're a perfect pair:
Chianti has a bold, fruity flavor with enough acidity to stand up to the tomatoes and meat.

Similar pairings to try: Spanish Rioja also pairs well with tomato-based sauces. Parmesan cheese goes well with Chianti.

Spicy Indian Takeout and Riesling

Why they're a perfect pair:
Slightly sweet, low alcohol wines like German, Australian or New York Rieslings give the palate some relief from a spicy meal. A highly alcoholic wine would make you feel the burn.

Similar pairings: Spicy Asian food or highly spiced Mexican dishes like enchiladas also pair well with Riesling. A dry Gewurztraminer also pairs well with heart-pumping cuisine like Thai or Indian.

Salmon and Pinot Noir

Why they're a perfect pair:
While fish typically pairs better with white wine, salmon's flavor will stand up to the bold but not too tannic flavor of Pinot Noir. Consider regional pairings – salmon harvested in from Pacific Northwest pairs well with the Pinots from that area.

Similar pairings to try: Pinot Noir also pairs well with other fatty fishes like tuna, especially when it's served rare or raw.

Stilton and Port

Why they're a perfect pair:
The contrast! The salty cheese and the sweet wine contrast beautifully, but both are aged long enough to develop a similar earthy, tawny flavor.

Similar pairings to try: Serve sweet wines like port, sherry and Madeira with salty and/or strong cheeses such as Roquefort, Stilton and other blue or pungent cheeses.

Lamb and Bordeaux

Why they're a perfect pair:
Because of the gamey flavor, lamb shines with a wine that has a rich, bold personality to stand up to it. Bordeaux is bold and fruity, and the fatty richness of the meat helps absorb some of the wine's tannins.

Similar pairings: Pair aromatic wines with bold flavors and maybe even some smokiness to pair with lamb or other game, such as venison.

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