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Four tips for perfect pairings

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Robert Morris is owner and manager at East Valley restaurants Cork, BLD and Stax Burger Bistro. Reach him at (480) 883-3773 or

Posted: Wednesday, February 15, 2012 2:00 pm

Ever wondered about how to pair wine with food? Or do you simply want to do it better? Follow these four tips for pairings that bring out the best in your wine and in your meal.

Tip No. 1: Find a wine you enjoy drinking.

First and foremost, when you are pairing wines with a meal, find one you enjoy drinking. Don’t worry about the quality of a wine or how it rated in the wine magazines. Regardless of what wine experts claim are the best vintages, you should be the one who enjoys drinking the wine.

Tip No. 2: Light-bodied wines are served before full-bodied wines.

The rule of thumb for wine pairing is to serve lighter wines before the heavier, more tannic wines.

Lighter-bodied wines tend to be white wines, such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio or sparkling wines. There are a few light-bodied reds, such as Pinot Noir, which can be served early in the meal, too. Lighter wines can be opened with a salad, soup or appetizer.

When serving poultry or fish dishes, pair a light-bodied white or light-bodied red with the meal. Rich fish, like sea bass, can be paired with heavier whites, like Chardonnay.

Heavy meat dishes, such as steak or lamb, deserve fuller, richer wines, like Bordeaux, Cabernet or even a French Burgundy.

Desserts, depending on how rich they are, can be served with chilled white dessert wines, like Sauternes, or flavorful red dessert wines, like Port.

Tip No. 3: When cooking regional fare, pair wines from the same region.

What better way to gain the full experience of a particular cuisine than to pair it with a wine from the same area?

If you are cooking a heavy French meal with delicate sauces and savory meats, choose wines from France. Light sauces can be served with a white or red Burgundy wine, while heavier sauces can be paired with a full-bodied Bordeaux.

Italians pride themselves on how well their wines pair with Italian food. Do a little research to find the origin of the dish you’re preparing, and choose an accompanying wine from the same region.

Tip No. 4: Find balance.

Complex flavors and foods should be paired with simple-flavored wines, while complex wines should accompany simple but flavorful dishes.

Think about opposing flavors, such as sweet and spicy, when trying to find balance between a dish and a wine. Spicy food, like Thai or Spanish food, pairs well with sweet wines, like Riesling. The sweetness in the wine balances the spicy. In turn, the spicy food cuts the sweetness in the wine. Don’t shy away from this pairing just because you think you don’t like sweet wines.

Also note that the type of food you serve can change the flavors in a wine. The spices used in cooking can either highlight or overpower a wine. The acids and tannins in a wine can interact with the seasonings used in sauces or the natural flavors found in meats. This is why it is important to know what you are cooking before picking out the wines you will be serving.

• Robert Morris is owner and manager at East Valley restaurants Cork, BLD and Stax Burger Bistro. Reach him at (480) 883-3773 or

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