Choosing a Wine: Cooking and Sipping

April 29 2015 – Robert Fiumara

If you’re an amateur cook who likes to entertain at home, you may often wonder how to choose a wine that pairs perfectly with the dish you’re serving.  Even seasoned chefs can find the process of pairing alcohol with food difficult and complicated – many times we find ourselves making it more stressful than it needs to be!  Here are some tips on pairing wine and food when cooking or entertaining.


The myth that you need an expensive wine when cooking a dish is a prevalent one.  After all, it makes some sense that the more expensive the wine, the better tasting it is, and the better tasting your final dish will be.  However, this isn’t necessarily the case.  In fact, a recent study was done where the same dish was prepared with three different types of wine:  an expensive wine, a box wine, and a wine that was good quality but had been opened a few days before.  Surprisingly enough, the choice of the wine had no effect on the quality or taste of the final dish.  So if your recipe calls for a wine, go ahead and get the cheap stuff – in the end, it makes no difference.


But what if you’re a chef who likes to enjoy a glass of wine while preparing your meal?  In that case, you’re going to want to choose a bottle of wine that is good for both sipping and cooking and one that is relatively inexpensive.  The following wines cost no more than $12 and represent a degree of qualities including:  outstanding quality for their price, a good degree of body, and no excessive use of sugar or tannins.  Keep in mind that acidity and sweetness were the two factors in the study mentioned above, that affected the final taste of the dish – these five wines avoid those two characteristics and you should try to avoid them when choosing your own cooking and sipping wine. 


Les Heretiques; Rhone blend; $10

2013 Domaine de la Quilla Muscadet, $12

2013 Weingut Hopler White blend, $12

2011 Falesco Vitiano Rosso, Italian red blend, Merlot, $11

2013 Alamos Red Malbec Blend, $10


The basic rules of pairing food and wine still apply and are quite reliable, especially for beginners.  In general, make sure you’re choosing similar flavors (fish with lemon sauce pairs well with Sauvignon Blanc because both have citrus flavors); pair with the sauce or the meat when there is no sauce (heavy cream sauces pair well with Chardonnay while poultry with no sauce goes great with Pinot Noir).  You can also take the simple route and pair with color (light wine for light food and deep colored wines for rich food).  The old adage that white wines pair well with pork, fish, and poultry still apply, as does the rule that red wines pair well with beef and heavier dishes. 


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