When it comes to pairing wine with meat, throw out the rule book. While there are certainly arguments to be made in favor of the traditional red wine with red meat and white wine with chicken and seafood, modern cuisine is more about the unexpected.
The main concern should be that the wine and the food do not overwhelm each other. Instead, their flavors should complement each other. Robust red wines require strong flavors that can stand up to them. Sweet fruity wines pair best with slightly sweet foods, or even slightly smoky ones.
Some wine and food pairings truly don’t work. A robust red will overpower a delicate, lemony poached whitefish. But if you’re smothering that fish in a mushroom sauce, a red wine might be perfect.
Consider the way the meat is prepared more than the identity of the meat. Heavy reds with high levels of tannins, like a Cabernet, don’t pair well with hot, spicy foods. Tannins dry out the mouth slightly, which only increases the heat levels. But this same wine shines paired with a red meat served rare.
Grilled salmon or swordfish has enough flavor to stand up to a red wine. In fact, any grilled food pairs well with red wines. Consider your basting sauce when pairing wines with grilled foods. Barbecue sauces are often slightly sweet, and go wonderfully with a Zinfandel or a Shiraz.
Don’t stand on ceremony. Wine goes with everything, even hot dogs. To contrast with their slightly smoky flavor, try a sweet Reisling.
Consider pairing your wine with your side, rather than your meat. A buttery Chardonnay pairs wonderfully with the corn on the cob for your next cookout.
Are you using cheese in your sauce? Take a cue from classic wine and cheese pairings. Bordeaux, for example is the first choice to go with cheddar cheese. In general, aged red wines complement aged cheeses. Younger wines go well with younger cheeses.
For a salad topped with meat consider a light red. If it also contains peppery greens, a Zinfandel is perfect.
Wild game of all kinds has a much stronger flavor than its domesticated counterparts. Pinot noir is a versatile wine that goes well with a variety of foods, and it’s an admirable choice for wild game, too.
In the end, what matters is how well you like a wine/meat pair. Experiment with different combinations, considering acidity, sweetness and intensity of flavors as you make your choices. Remember, too, that wines taste different when paired with food than when sipped alone. Don’t be disappointed when your favorite white wine doesn’t taste quite right with your favorite chicken dish. Just try something else next time, maybe a rose or even, heavens, a Pinot Noir.