Wine and food have been hand in hand ever since the first grapes were crushed and fermented a couple thousand years ago. The lingering question that stemmed from that occurrence is “what are the ideal food and wine pairings?” Of course, there is no definitive answer, but there are a lot of clues and some basic rules that you can use to guide you along the process.
The first and most fundamental thing to understand is that food and wine were created together. They were designed to go together in their own respective regions. The people of Spain grew grapes and made wine that they felt paired best with their local foods; the people of Italy cultivate Sangiovese because it pairs well with pizza etc etc… What does this tell us? That if you’re having an Italian meal it will probably go well with an Italian wine and if you’re having an American meal it will most likely pair well with an American wine. This is not a hard and fast rule, however, if you’re a wine and food novice it’s a great place to start.
Another concept to grasp is that pairing “like with like” is a good thing. You don’t want your wine to overpower your food or vice versa. You want the two to complement each other. Pair heavy with heavy and light with light and trust your instincts. Will a full-throttle, intense Napa Cab go well with grilled salmon? Certainly not! The Salmon would be drowned in fruit and tannin to the extent that you would hardly be able to taste it. That same Napa Cab would go great with a steak or some rich stew though because both are heavy and intensely flavored. The same type of rule should be applied with a light white wine like Sauvignon Blanc. Pasta and meatballs would overwhelm a Sauvignon Blanc, but a light shellfish or salad could pair perfectly with it.
Implementing these two food and wine pairing concepts will greatly enhance your dining experiences. Cheers!