When it comes to wine there are three basic rules: Pair red wines with red meat, white wines with white meat, and sweet wines with desserts. But let’s take it a step further. All the flavors in the food have an effect on the taste of the wine. A red wine you like to drink by itself may not taste as good with that cheeseburger and curly fries or that filet mignon and asparagus.
A light Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio has a light texture on the palate and brighter flavors of citrus. That makes these familiar wines perfect to pair with fish, which is also light in color and in texture. White meats like chicken and turkey also belong in this category. A full-bodied red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon is heavier on the palate and has a bolder flavor. Therefore a grilled steak would be ideal. Both red wine and red meat-laden plates are fuller, darker, and deeper in texture and flavor.
This rule mostly applies to the ingredients that are mixed in with the meat dishes. Italian wines will always complement Italian dishes. They are grown in the same type of soil under the same climate, making them compatible. Californian wines will pair with plates that have citrus and avocadoes for the same reason. Spanish/Portuguese wines will pair well with Mexican dishes.
Sometimes you want to contrast, not complement, the flavors of your wine with your food. If the dish is creamy and rich, you will want a rich, creamy wine like a warm-climate Chardonnay. In that case, this more acidic wine could cut the richness and allow both flavors to shine. A sweeter wine like Reisling will cut through spicy flavors of Asian dishes, as it is less tannic.
These are easy rules to remember the next time you find yourself pairing wines with your favorite dishes.