Contrary to what some haughty waiters will imply, wine and food pairings are quite elastic. Very few combinations will cause your guests to burn your image in effigy, so you can experiment quite freely from the selections on the Gold Medal Wine Club website. That said, there are a few rules to keep in mind when choosing the wine to serve at your next fancy dinner.
There is a good reason why wine tasting is such a popular practice. Wines have slight variations of taste, and you need to roll it around your tongue to get an idea of what are its strong points. For example, a strong tannin (bitter) taste goes well with rich foods, because its astringency cuts through the fat, and the fat tones down the bitterness. The next time you have steak, choose a wine that has high tannin.
Make it sweet
No, we do not mean for you to get a sweet wine every time. However, the rule is that your wine should be just a touch sweeter than the food than the food you are pairing it; otherwise, the wine will taste bitterer than it should.
Like with like, except bitter
Tartness is the acidity in the wine, and a tart wine goes very well indeed with other tart foods, like Sauvignon Blanc with a salad in vinaigrette dressing. However, the same does not apply for high tannin wines. Matching bitter with bitter only equals bitterer. Pairing green beans, for example, with a Cabernet Sauvignon is not a good idea.
When you are serving dishes that have a delicate flavor, such as fish or seafood, you will overpower it with strong wines. Choose instead a light wine such as Pinot Grigio to enhance the sweetness and lightness of the dish.
Wine can complement a dish if you choose wisely, but there is no need to panic if you have no idea how to do a good pairing. A safe bet is to go for table wines that have a medium flavor, so no one gets offended.