Just like there's a spectrum of wine, there's also a spectrum of food, and understanding how the two align will teach you how to pair them.
Imagine the world of wine as a color continuum. At the extreme left is water-colorless, flavorless, odorless. The the far right is black, opaque India ink. Let Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon act as four major reference points on this spectrum.
Sauvignon Blanc is a light, crisp, zippy white wine, with Pinot Grigio, Soave, and dry Riesling as its neighbors. Chardonnay is a heavier white wine with riper, rounder, less spiky flavors. Viognier and semisweet Riesling also fall into this range.
Moving from light to dark, Pinot Noir, with its light-red, sometimes see-through color, comes first. Next is the dark, black Cabernet Sauvignon, followed by some darker, blacker Syrahs and Zinfandels. With this image in mind, you can place almost every wine on this spectrum.
Merlot falls between Pinot and Cab, learning toward Cab. Chianti, between Pinot and Cab, leans toward Pinot. That crazy Australian Shiraz-do dense it has its own gravitational field-is clearly off the chart.
Do the same exercise with food, laying it over the wine spectrum as if a transparency. Shrimp, shellfish, and light, flaky white fish line up with the Sauvignon Blanc. Poultry, pork, and muscular seafood cuts such as shark and swordfish match naturally with Chardonnay or other heavy white wines. Pinot Noir works with chicken, as well as veal, bluefish, and meaty mushroom dishes. Big red wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon goes with big red meat such as lamb, beef, and goat. Outlier foods, including raw-milk blue cheese and stinky Muenster, pair best with outlier wines, including high-alcohol Porto or late-harvest Zinfandel.
Partners in Wine,
Wine Lover's Devotional Jonathon Alsop
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