“What wine should I drink with …?” remains the
eternal question of consumers and wine professionals alike, about
every food and at every level—from wary novice to wine pro.
Why? After all, it’s pretty unlikely anyone ever ruined a
meal with the “wrong” wine choice, isn’t it? I
think the answer is as simple as this: most everybody loves to eat.
(Many of us admit we live to eat!) And we spend a great deal of
time thinking about enjoying food—not only in the here and
now, but often long before and after the cooking (or ordering) and
eating. In fact, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration
to say that the taste and feeling of food have the power to inspire
some of our most vivid memories, our wildest fantasies, and our
noblest feats of creativity and collaboration. For example, H-O-M-E
and all its comforts are captured in a single bite of Mom’s
meatloaf. That glinting, inaugural plate of oysters, or first heady
whiff of the cheese cart on your Paris getaway, consummates months
of pre-trip escapist longings. And from the Barbecue Rendezvous
in Memphis, to the Gilroy, California, garlic festival, thousands
of far-flung strangers regularly manage, with masterful precision,
the complex logistics of gathering to share a giant fix of a favorite
food. Pretty impressive, really.
And it’s no wonder we’re so food-obsessed, because
our first mind-blowing mouthful usually happens early on—perhaps
a milk-dunked donut or a particularly well-constructed PB&J.
When those flavor stars align, eating is no longer simply fueling.
In terms of taste, you’ve blasted off. And thus begins alifelong
pursuit of that same ecstasy just about anytime the food and the
time at hand permit more than simply a fill-up. We also happily
discover that high-flying flavor potential isn’t limited to
a luxury restaurant. It can be anything, from Mom’s macaroni
and cheese to a celebrity chef’s signature lobster bisque.
Good food, plain or fancy, can be a died-and-gone-to-heaven experience.
Then comes wine. Like food, it tastes good and feels good. For
most of us, it’s new, vast, ancient, and mysterious. It offers
us a taste of exotic places and flavors (though sometimes at exotic
prices, too!). It also brings uncertainty. But still, we’re
very intrigued because we’ve had those out-of-body food experiences.
So we wonder, “Can wine make food even better?” It stands
to reason, because we know that the Europeans, justly famous for
their eating and drinking lifestyle, have been enjoying wine with
their meals—daily, not just on special occasions—for
millennia. And we’re talking lunch and dinner. I think every
food lover and wine drinker yearns for a shot at those frequent
flavor and pleasure possibilities. I also think that most of us
feel stymied by one or more of these obvious hurdles: wine confusion,
cost concerns, and, most frustrating of all, the rules.
The first snag, wine confusion, affects all of us, even Master
Sommeliers, to one degree or another. While it is true that the
typical wine label is chock-full of information, quite often the
only bits with clear meaning are “alcohol by volume”
and the price tag—hardly enough to clue you in to what the
wine will taste like, or guide you to a potential food partner.
And sometimes it’s just enough to prejudice you against it,
too. I think it’s fair to say that few of us like to gamble
a lot on whether we’ll like something we’re about to
eat or drink.
Even fewer of us are willing to do so when the money stakes are
high, and the fact is that for the average person, drinking wine
with dinner represents a conscious choice to spend more than we’d
have to for the typical alternative beverages—beer, milk,
soda, iced tea, you name it. Of course it takes only one or two
nice wine and food experiences to convince most people that the
extra expense is well worth it! But still, the cost consideration
is a real incentive for anyone to want to increase his or her odds
of pairing success, and I’ve found that is true regardless
of budget. Working in luxury hotels and restaurants, I’ve
waited on my share of moneyed moguls, tycoons, and trust-fund types.
They want good deals, too, especially if they’re trying something
new to them, as is so often the case with wine. It’s universal:
everyone wants to feel he or she is getting his or her money’s
Finally, there’s just plain old rookie rule-phobia. We’ve
all heard the “red wine with red meat, white wine with fish”
rule. And the wine trade trumpets the so-called classic matches—luxurious
partners like foie gras and Sauternes, prime steak and Cabernet
Sauvignon, beluga and Champagne, oysters and Chablis. While these
guidelines are certainly solid, their context is quite rarefied,
when you really think about it: how many of the people you know
define “dinner,” day in and day out, in terms of steak-house
splurges and caviar? It doesn’t even sound appealing for every
day, does it? But it probably explains why wine remains on the “special
occasion” shelf for so many Americans. And for more down-to-earth
dinners like pasta with pesto sauce (where’s the beef?), or
an omelet (filled with eggplant caviar, if you’re an industrious
cook), the rules leave us high and (literally) dry for a wine match.
What is needed when it comes to wine, food, and the daily dinner
routine is a bridge, between the seeming necessity to “know
what we’re doing” and just doing it; between the promise
of frequent wine and food pleasure, and the actuality of pulling
it off; between the rules of wine and food matching, and the reality
of what normal people cook, eat, and spend. You can build that bridge
easily within the context of your regular shopping and eating (in
or out) routine, regardless of whether you are a casual consumer
or a devoted foodie or wine lover. This book will be your blueprint.
How? In my first book, Great Wine Made Simple, we used easy, pace-yourself
wine-tasting lessons to define in taste terms most anything you
might find printed on a wine label, from “barrel fermented”
to Zinfandel. In this book, we’ll take a similar approach
using tasting lessons, or really pairing experiments, that let you
explore wine styles, food flavors, and how they interact.
You might be worrying: what am I getting into here? If at first
it sounds as if your relaxing dinnertime is about to be destroyed
by drills and doctrine, fear not. These tastings are neither overloaded
with tedious theory and analysis to be studied, nor fraught with
execution challenges like expensive bottles, overwrought recipes,
or marathon restaurant sessions. Rather, they are designed for utmost
convenience, so that you can:
• Start enjoying wine and food more right now by turning the
mystery of pairing
the two into an everyday, useful activity; and
• Increase your pleasure in well-priced, accessible wines
with easily accomplished
meals. As you’ll see, the best “tuna helper” comes
in a bottle labeled Pinot
Grigio. And my idea of Cheez Whiz operates under an alias: Chianti.
Simple, Simpler, Simplest:
How to Use This Book to Pair Great (-Tasting) Wine and Food
Think of it this way: you have to eat anyway. Now it can pay off
in greater pleasure and gains in your wine-and-food-pairing confidence.
Tasting, rather than “studying,” has enormous advantages,
too. It’s both enjoyable, and keenly memorable. Principles
read from a page can fly right out of your head (if they don’t
put you to sleep first!), but smelling, nibbling, noshing, dipping,
chewing, scooping, slathering, savoring, and—hopefully—sharing,
each weaves sensory threads into the fabric of memory, providing
the recall that you need to put wine and food together confidently
the next time, and the next.
There are several different ways to use this book, depending on
both the particular circumstances and your interest level, from
just scrounging some weeknight chow to planning a “big meal,”
from hungry and thirsty human to impassioned cook or collector—and
all points in between. They are:
• Look up quick matches using the book’s Wine and Food
Pairing Index, which
will quickly point you to lots of specific food-and-wine-pairing
recommendations that you’re highly likely to enjoy.
• Train your taste to develop your own pairing intuition and
tap into what’s
already there. As I’ll show you, it is much easier than you
think, it’s a lot of fun,
and though you may not yet realize it, you are already well up the
• Learn how to use the wine label to predict the style of
a wine and its food
affinity easily. That’s the insight you need to choose a wine
especially suited to
a particular dish, or to plan your menu to complement a specific
You might employ just one or all of them at some point or another.
Here is how they work:
Making Quick Matches Using the Wine and Food Pairing Index
What wines could you pair with a particular food? Or what foods
especially complement a specific wine type? I developed this index
because, as a sommelier, I get asked these types of matching questions
constantly, not just by customers but by trade colleagues, fellow
shoppers at the supermarket checkout, airplane seat-mates, you name
it. The index is basically the book’s “search engine,”
allowing you to look up pairing suggestions, by either food or wine.
With food, you can look up key ingredients (like lobster or mushrooms),
cuisines (Thai, for example), or dishes (gumbo, quesadillas), and
find specific wine suggestions for them. Or, putting the wine first,
you can look up a wine name—be it a region (Champagne, Chianti,
and so on) or a grape (Pinot Grigio, Shiraz, etc.). Either way,
when you look up a wine or food in the index, the boldface page
numbers will direct you to the tasting tables in the book, where
you’ll find specific pairings that work really well for the
wine or food in question. You can put it to work immediately, by
looking up and trying suggested pairings for all the wines and foods
that appeal to you.
Where Do These Wine and Food Pairings Come From?
I have included a full range, from mainstream rule-of-thumb matches
(like steak and Cabernet Sauvignon); to food- and wine-world classics
(such as caviar and Champagne); to a completely original and focused
palette of pairing ideas that I’ve had the chance to explore
and polish in my work in restaurants, my professional culinary training,
and throughout a life of committed cooking and eating.
Real-World Food, Wine-Loving Food: A Practical Approach to Wine
It is this last group of pairing ideas that I think is most exciting,
because it spotlights the two “food groups” that will
bolster your food and wine-pairing savvy and confidence faster than
you might have ever thought possible: real-world food and wine-loving
food. While they are the very essence of this book, there’s
nothing “official” about these categories. I made them
up—because as I’ll explain, they precisely describe
the most practical and delicious launchpad from which to explore
the flavor dynamics of wine and food as a duo, which is what you’ll
Real-World Food: Tuning In to Everyday Tastes, with Wine
Think about what you cook, order, serve, and eat most days. Take-out
sushi, sandwiches, the extra chili you froze two weekends ago? This
isn’t the fancy fare conjured up by wine-and-food-matching
rules. These kinds of meals, reflecting the real-world tastes, time
constraints, and budgets of the everyday table, are the “reality
show” of wine and food, whose episodes play out everywhere,
every day. For example, one of my friends, a Wall Street titan who
lives at one of Manhattan’s most luxurious addresses (and
dines out in any five-star palace he cares to), is also a single
dad whose school-night menu standard is Shake ’n Bake chicken,
served usually with a bottle of Meursault, a luxury French white
Burgundy. (I can personally attest to both Shake ’n Bake’s
wine worthiness and how good it tastes with Meursault.) That is
a perfect example of one of wine’s most distinguished roles—a
“life line” to turn any meal into a winner, no matter
what your pantry presents. Now you’ll have ample opportunity
to prove that for yourself, a process I’m sure you’ll
The tasting tables in each chapter of the book include wine matches
for you to try with all kinds of everyday foods and dishes that
are easy to prepare or buy and, by virtue of that fact, quite commonly
eaten by a high percentage of people. That includes popular ethnic
tastes like sushi and burritos, and ubiquitous dishes like roast
chicken and Caesar salad (Remember when it was the exclusive purview
of fine restaurants with tableside service? Now even Mickey D’s
has Caesar salad.), and so on. With these matches, you’ll
always be prepared to look up a wine to enjoy alongside, as often
as you like, as you dial up delivery, fire up the stove, or heat
up the leftovers. And you’ll discover what the Europeans know
so well: that wine elevates every meal, no matter how simple.
Getting the Goods: Mouthwatering, Mind-Bending Matches with Wine-Loving
As a sommelier, it has been my pleasure and my job now for more
than ten years to guide guests to delicious restaurant wine and
food experiences, worthy of dressing and paying up for. For those
of us who work in restaurants, the old saw that each and every one
of us is as utterly unique as our fingerprint is proven nightly,
with ringing clarity. I have been privileged to serve, and challenged
to delight, wildly varied tastes, from wary traditionalists to flagrant
foodies, nervous wine neophytes to inveterate oenophiles. In my
restaurant and TV food career, I have worked with and, as a culinary
student, trained under some of the most gifted chefs in the world,
from seafood gurus like Ed Brown, to French classicists like Jacques
Pepin and Alain Sailhac, to ethnic artists like Mario Batali and
Bobby Flay. And of course, in working toward the Master Sommelier
diploma, writing wine lists and training waiters, sommeliers, and
consumers, I taste thousands of wines a year. If it sounds great,
it’s not. Heaven is more like it.
The cumulative result of all these encounters—what I call
wine-loving food, is the heart of this book. No, it’s not
a marketing ploy from the wine “commission” cleverly
disguised as a new food trend. (Or worse, a “wine” cookbook.
Fear not, you won’t find recipes for Port-wine cheese balls
or Shiraz-glazed short ribs in here.) Simply defined, wine-loving
food is a family of flavor styles, textures, and cooking techniques
that truly dazzle when paired with wine.
But more than just a list of delicious pairing suggestions (of
which this book is certainly chock-full), wine-loving food defines
a logic for putting food and wine together for maximum flavor mileage
that I use in my work developing menus, guiding restaurant guests,
and teaching consumers, waiters, chefs, and sommeliers. But if you’re
thinking “uh-oh, sounds hard” for anyone without tremendous
food and wine expertise, take heart. This logic is actually so intuitive
that you are undoubtedly already applying it in your food and eating
Training Your Taste to Develop Your Own Pairing Intuition
In the train-your-taste approach, I will show you, with a few easy
tastings, how to combine that intuition about food with wine. The
process is simple: think of wine-loving food as a palette of food
and flavor styles that go extremely well, virtually all the time,
with wine. Any time you use this palette to devise a dish, construct
a menu, or place a food order, your handiwork, whether plain or
exotic, subtle or bold, home- cooked, waiter-served, or ordered-in,
will be a natural and easy match for wines. Which wines? Pretty
much any that you’d have the occasion to drink, and certainly
the vast majority of popular styles that we all see for sale in
stores and on wine lists. If that strikes you as awfully simple,
then you are right.
Wine-loving food is in no way a “stretch” for anyone,
because the flavors and ingredients, rather than being the elite
territory of haute cuisine restaurants or accomplished home cooks,
are literally everywhere in all food and cooking from normal to
luxurious, and thus well within the grasp of the everyday person.
And as you’ll see from the repertoire of wine-loving foods
explored in this book (though I’m sure I haven’t spotted
them all), they are common threads that weave together a huge variety
of classic and ethnic cuisines.
The pairing suggestions for each flavor family are designed to
clinch your sensory connection to these flavor styles and their
wine affinities. But the truth is that you probably already can
count in your experience at least a few wine and food matches as
rewarding as those we’ll explore here. Though you perhaps
lucked into them, and maybe lacked a lexicon richer than “yum”
to articulate what was happening, you knew you’d gotten the
goods. Here, with each chapter, we’ll just flesh out, through
some simple tastings and matches that you can incorporate directly
into your dinner, the repertoire of what you now know is wine-loving
food and put a basic vocabulary to it that you can consciously apply
(every day if you want) rather than waiting to luck into a serendipitous
How Sommeliers Do It
For years, customers have said to me, “What a great job you
have, tasting all that wine and eating all that great food …”I’ve
always smiled and nodded in agreement, because indeed I do often
get to taste delicious stuff. But what eventually became clear to
me was that many of my guests believed, to determine the wine suggestions
I gave them, I had actually tasted every combination and permutation
of our entire food menu and wine list (maybe it would have been
fun to try, but I’m not sure I’d be around to tell this
The truth is that I, and all sommeliers, regularly turn to what
we already know about different wines’ affinity with different
food flavors, textures, and styles, as well as any preferences you
express (taste, cost, etc.), in coming up with suggestions. In other
words, we incorporate what we know about popular tastes, about our
chefs’ menus—and food in general—and the wine
style basics embodied in our lists, to zero in on the target: recommendations
with a high potential to please.
With wine-loving food, the logic is identical. Wine-loving food
is my term for a broad repertoire of wonderful, accessible foods
that work a high percentage of the time with most of the wines people
want to buy and drink.
For devoted foodies and wine lovers, I have included plenty of
highly nuanced tasting and pairing guidance in these pages. This
includes special attention to the noble foods and wines, the go-for-broke
delicacies of wine-loving food whose truly monumental taste can
achieve still greater heights with a more calculated wine choice,
and whose cost warrants the extra effort.
And what if your dinner choice is not wine-loving food? What about
that sinus-clearing wasabi dipping sauce for your California rolls,
or the scotch bonnet marinade on your Jamaican chicken, or the kimchi
condiment with your Korean barbecue? That takes us back to real-world
food, where we cover the everyday demand for tastes both ethnic
and convenient. (Honestly, I’m not so sure about the kimchi.
I’m often invited to be on tasting panels by my friends at
Wine & Spirits Magazine, whose office on West 32nd Street just
happens to be smack in the middle of Manhattan’s Koreatown
neighborhood. Kimchi is our long-running joke, because no one’s
been able to come up with a suitable wine match. If you’ve
tasted it, you know why we usually go for beer!)
Where’s the Wine?
The burning question by now, right? As a Master Sommelier, why
on earth am I not devoting these pages to telling you how to choose
foods and devise pairings, the better to enjoy the juice? It’s
a conscious choice. In my first book, Great Wine Made Simple, I
present a self-guided wine-tasting course that starts you off with
baby steps in the shallow end, moving on from there until the wine
immersion is as complete as you care to make it.
There are two main reasons why I took the food point of view in
this book. First, I wanted to make it very clear that you don’t
have to make a heavy commitment to wine knowledge to gain confidence
with, and enjoyment from, pairing wine and food. Second, using food
intuition to get to wine pairing makes perfect sense, for the simple
reason that you already have that intuition. Do you butter and salt
your corn on the cob before eating it? Toast the bread for your
sandwiches? Squeeze lemon on your shrimp cocktail? Then you are
well up the curve. As such, when we begin to explore the flavor
families in wine-loving food, you’ll feel an instant connection
From there, the choice is yours. You can explore all of the nuanced
tastes and matches in every chapter; avid cooks and wine aficionados
will want to do just that, and it will certainly be loads of fun.
Or you can just focus on the chapters that deal with your favorite
foods and flavor styles, to quickly zero in on the wines that will
enhance your personal eating regimen, from daily meals to occasions
like business dinners and holiday gatherings, where there’s
more than your own taste at stake.
Learning to Use the Label to Choose a Wine Match for Your Food
For either approach, the basics in Chapter One are all the wine
preparation you’ll need. To most people, predicting what a
wine will taste like, and how it will partner with different foods
just by looking at the label, seems impossibly hard. You didn’t
need me to tell you that, but have you ever thought about why that
is true? Think of the difference when it comes to food, with which
most of us have a great deal of tasting experience thanks to a lifetime
of eating. The happy result is that when you read Rosemary-Crusted
Rack of Lamb on a restaurant menu, clip a recipe for curried chicken,
or toss a can of New England clam chowder into your grocery cart,
you have a very good idea of what those dishes will taste like.
With wine, you can develop this same skill quite easily, and without
a huge investment of time or money, using the same principles and
tasting lessons I use to teach waiters. First, we start right off
putting wine and food together in a simple tasting that clearly
and deliciously illustrates wine and food flavor dynamics. Flavor
dynamics just refers to the fact that, when enjoyed together, wine
and food change each other—a lot. Perhaps this doesn’t
come as a surprise, but I suggest you do the component tasting anyway;
the logistics are no more complex than putting together a quick
snack, and the payoff is huge. Even when I do the tasting with chefs
and very experienced waiters, it’s always a real eye-opener.
From there, the wine basics in the chapter will explore the flavor
and style elements in wines that most impact their food affinity,
and the label cues to help you identify them.
The remaining chapters will explore, through tasting, how to use
your knowledge to choose wine styles that make the most of what
you’re eating. Natural flavor and style affinities exist in
wine and food just as they do in food alone; examples like sweet
lobster and sweet butter, or the fact that with chili-laced Mexican
foods, there’s nearly always a squeeze of lime in the picture,
come to mind. When it comes to wine and food affinity, wine labels
often communicate in code. For example, “barrel fermented”
can be read like the size tag for body style: XL. And a delicate
Riesling might as well be labeled “coolant” for lovers
of spicy food. I’ll help you decipher these messages.
Tools, Not Rules
When it comes right down to it, I guess I owe my very livelihood
to the question “What wine should I drink with … ?”
Although the seductive lure of food and flavor is pretty much universal,
preferences are highly individual. For that reason, I thought long
and hard about the very idea of tackling the topic of wine and food
in a book. The existing templates are about picking the so-called
right wine for your food, listing complex rules for pairing wine
and food, or both. But enjoying wine and food shouldn’t be
hard work. To me, the “right” wine can be as much about
convenience, emotion, or both—whatever is handy or whatever
you’re excited about drinking or serving from the shop, your
cellar, the wine list, whatever—as about what “goes
with” what. (Sometimes the right wine is whatever somebody
else is paying for—who’d reject a proffered glass of
world-class wine just because the rule book says it doesn’t
“go with” what they’re eating?)
What this book is about is ramping up the flavor possibilities
for all of your eating from everyday fare to major food experiences
at home and in restaurants. Whether you are a restaurant pro, an
avid cook, a foodie, or just hungry, you’ll find the tasty
tools here to do that.
Pomerantz 6 Bottle Wine Rack w/Pourer
Towle Beacon Hill Wine Cooler Keep your wine at its perfect temperature in this attractive and functional Wine Cooler. Features a crosshatch design border, cast in a heavy durable solid brass, plated in brushed nickel - carefree, non-tarnish finish. 9" high x 5 3/8" dia.
Atlantis Radius Wine Set, 5 pc.
Lifetime Brands Ocean Glassware Wine Set/4 The graceful stem on these glasses adds elegance to any table setting - from casual to formal. Coordinates beautifully with our Seychelles dinnerware pattern.
Connoisseur White Wine Goblet Different wines require different shaped glasses to bring out the intensity of the aromas of the wine and to help direct the wine to specific parts of the tongue. White wines use a taller and slimmer glass. The clear glass lets you enjoy the delicate color of white wine and the long stem will keep the heat of your hands away from the glass, preventing the wine from warming. 19 1/4 oz.
Farberware® Wine Stopper Set/2 Helps retain the freshness and flavor. Simply place the stopper in the opened bottle top and push the lever down. The stopper expands to form an airtight seal.
Stemless Red Wine Tumbler Set/4 Many experts prefer stemless glasses for the full enjoyment of either red or white wines. These sophisticated wine tumbler are perfectly shaped for the maximum appreciation of bouquet, flavor and finish. Set of four, each 21 oz.
Casa Moda™ EZ Out Wine Opener Remove corks quickly and easily. Includes foil cutter and replacement worm screw.
Hoffritz® Dripless Wine Pourer Guaranteed to prevent wine from dripping and spilling while pouring. The cap can be used for tasting as well as a cover to keep your wine fresh. 3".
Towle Concentric Stainless Steel Double Wall Wine Coaster This wine coaster prevents drips of wine from staining table linens (or the table itself!). 18/10 stainless steel with a layer of air in-between that provides optimum insulation. Dishwasher safe.
Elements Wine Decanter, 9 1/2" high
Tabla Monterey Multicolored Wine Glass Set/4
Great Tastes Made Simple The author of Great Wine Made Simple takes the mystery out of pairing food with wine and makes it easy to choose the best wines to accompany everything from barbecue to rack of lamb. Hundreds of wine and food pairing suggestions are highlighted by superb wine-friendly recipes. Most wine experts' advice on wine and food pairings consists of rigid rules that apply largely to haute cuisine and luxury wines. But in her trademark accessible style, Andrea Immer now takes the mystery out of choosing wine for food--and vice versa. This book unlocks the secrets of basic food tastes--sweet, earthy, savory, buttery, tart, and spicy--and their particular wine affinities. Given even ordinary meals extraordinary flavor, Immer shows readers how to bring the flavor alchemy of wine to everyday fare from burger (with Zindfandel) to macaroni and cheese (with Rioja Crianza). She calls Pinot Grigio her tuna helper. There's also plenty of more sophisticated eating, including smoke salmon and Riesling; asparagus hollandaise and champagne; wild mushroom risotto and California Pinot Noir, to name a few upscale matches. In fact, there isn't a food or category of food--including a panoply of cheese, ethnic foods, and desserts--for which Immer doesn't provide a match and the reasons they work so well. Mouthwatering pairing charts and an easy-to-use index make finding wine and food combinations a snap.