Wine Pairing 101

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It doesn’t matter if you’re at your favorite restaurant or prepping to entertain at home — choosing wine doesn’t have to be tricky. Check out these simple (as in, easy to remember) pairings to bring out the best of what’s in your glass and on your plate.

But first … sometimes you like what you like and wonder, “Is it OK to break the rules?” The good news: It’s OK. In general, reds go best with meats, and whites with fish and poultry. Still, there are ranges within each category thanks to terroir and how wines are aged, so your taste just might lead you to another varietal. Keep that in mind when observing some of these basics:

Chicken, mild seafood and light sauces

Think outside the chardonnay and choose pinot grigio. It’s a dry white, but with zesty acidity and hints of lemon, green apple and honeysuckle. It’s refreshing enough stand on its own, yet it doesn’t overwhelm lighter dishes.

Beef and lamb

Bring out a big, oak-aged cabernet sauvignon when there’s meat on the menu. Its impressive tannins not only complement meat’s hearty flavors, but they also clear the palate so you’re ready for more. A good cab is dry, full-bodied and boasts medium acidity. Look for a wide range of notes, including cassis, dark fruits, vanilla and even tobacco and leather.

Rich seafood and heavier sauces

A tip of the hat to an unoaked chardonnay when the menu includes dishes such as shrimp and grits, risotto, alfredo and the like. While less complex than an oaked chardonnay, an unoaked chard still brings plenty to the table, including brighter fruit notes such as lemon, citrus peel, pear and passion fruit. These contrast with richer food offerings for a pleasing finish.

Fatty fish (yes, we said it!)

And by fatty, we mean good fats, those heart-healthy omega-3s. Choose an oaked chardonnay for salmon, mussels, halibut and others. The luscious mouthfeel both complements these dishes and offers the same palate-cleansing effect as the cab. Expect hints of vanilla, creme brulee, apple, butter and honey.

Other winning combos:

  • Pork is a bit of a chameleon when it comes to wine pairing, depending on the cut. Still, an approachable, easy-drinking pinot noir makes a fine companion. It’s got a silky texture, plus earthy aromas and hints of pepper and cherry.
  • Turn heads and pair cheese and charcuterie with Champagne or sparkling wine. These vinos are inherently sweet (even brut has a touch), which contrasts amazingly well with saltier (and richer) options.
  • When the menu heads toward tangy or spicy, reach for a light, dry, unoaked sauvignon blanc. Its subtle notes of gooseberry, green melon and grapefruit tames those dishes in a most delicious way.
  • Save room for dessert and order a light-bodied, sweet moscato. It’s ripe with tropical flavors such as mandarin orange, Meyer lemon and caramel. It’s that sweetness that complements desserts. Bonus: When dessert includes fruits, moscato brings their flavors front and center.

Now, back to your favorite restaurant — we hope that’s The Gables at Chadds Ford! We invite you to come out and chat with our wine-loving servers and bartenders for the best possible pairing with your meal. Salut!

The Gables at Chadds Ford is nestled in the heart of the historic Brandywine Valley. Our combination of fresh seasonal cuisine, rustic yet elegant charm and enchanting outdoor dining will keep you coming back time and time again. The Gables is also the perfect venue to host your next special event, whether you are planning a wedding, rehearsal dinner, baby shower or corporate event.

Nina Malone

Featured photo: Ed Williams; all other photos: The Gables at Chadds Ford