Danby: White or Red: How to Know Which is Right for Your Dinner Party

No meal is complete without a glass of wine! Make your meal as excellent as possible and keep these tips in mind when you uncork a bottle at your next dinner party.

white or red for dinner party

Red or White: Wine Pairing 101

Pairing food and wine doesn’t have to be complicated, but there’s more to it than matching wine to the main ingredient of a dish. Think of how different chicken tastes depending on whether you roast on a bed of herbs, fry it with flour and buttermilk, or grill the chicken to perfection on the BBQ. Those distinct flavours call for different wine pairings!

The best wine pairings consider both the main ingredient and how you cook and season the food.

Food and wine should enhance each other’s best characteristics, with neither overpowering the other. For example, a meal with intense flavour should be served with a wine to match it. Sweet dishes, especially desserts, are best paired with an even sweeter wine. Sipping a tart wine over an acidic meal will bring out the flavour in both. Rich, hearty foods beg for rich, red wine.

Certain dishes require a more careful choice. Combining bitter food with bitter wine will overwhelm both their secondary characteristics, for instance. Spicy and oily meals react poorly with tannins, calling for a lighter, white wine.

Of course, it’s also a matter of personal preference. Not everyone loves the bite of an aged red wine, or the sweetness of a fresh white. Wine pairings are meant to enhance your dining experience; there are no rules saying you must always choose red over white or white over red. These suggestions are simply a starting point when selecting a wine for the main course.

Beef and Lamb

Red meat usually calls for red wine. Leaner cuts pair best with a lighter red, while bolder reds bring out the best in rich, fatty meats. Dark-fruited wines, like Cabernet Sauvignon, are a delectable pairing for roasts and steak. If the meal is based around a more delicate piece, like lamb or beef tenderloin, choose a softer and rounder red wine, like Merlot.

Fish

Fish often flows well with a light, fruity white wine. Mild and flaky fish, like bass, tilapia, trout, and halibut, taste fresher with a creamy Chardonnay or bubbly champagne. But if dinner just doesn’t feel done without a great red wine, you may opt to serve fish with a low-tannin red, like Dry Rosé, instead of a white.

Pork

When it comes to pork, your choice of wine will depend on how the meat is prepared. Aromatic white wines with a heavy fruit taste are a wonderful balance to the saltiness of ham or cured pork. Try pairing the smoky flavour of barbequed pork with a spicy red, like Zinfandel.

Poultry

There are as many ways to prepare chicken as there are wines, and how you prepare it is the key to a great wine pairing. You should serve grilled chicken, especially when it has a heavy BBQ flavour, with a low-tannin red wine. Fried chicken goes great with a bubbly champagne or other sparkling wine. A rich, fruity white Chardonnay will enhance the flavour of your Thanksgiving turkey, as well as chicken baked in a cream or butter sauce.

Pasta

Picking the right wine pairing for pasta depends mainly on the choice of sauce. If the dish is heavy on tomatoes, choose an acidic white wine without many tannins. A rich sauce dressed in fresh herbs will mingle nicely with a crisp Pinot Grigio.

Salad

Dressing will dictate the preferred pairing for salad. If you’re unsure, Sauvignon Blanc is often a good complement, especially to salads topped with a mild vinaigrette or dairy-based dressing. Pay attention to the acidity of the dish, and remember that bitter wines won’t pair well with bitter vegetables.

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