The label says "great with chicken." But is that chicken-and-leek pie, chicken vindaloo or KFC? Hmm …
Some people approach food and wine matching with some sort of scientific precision – only Wine X is suitable for Food Y. Others reckon that anything goes – Château Latour with boiled egg, anyone? The truth lies somewhere between these two extremes.
While there are few rules about food and wine matching, putting a little effort into the combinations is worth it, as is continual and enthusiastic experimentation.
The most important considerations in food and wine pairing are the seasonings in the dish, and how it’s been cooked. If there’s a fruity sauce, are there any grape varieties that have similar flavors? If there’s a touch of chili, a fruity and lightly sweet white will calm the heat down.
Dishes that have cooked slowly for a long time pair better with gentle, mature reds, whereas a quickly chargrilled steak would prefer something younger and more vibrantly fruity.
As for the "red with meat, white with fish" rule, there are many white wines today that have the body and personality to stand up to red meats – try New World Chardonnay with roast lamb – and there are reds that have the freshness to partner with fish – seared salmon and Pinot Noir is a delicious combination.
Eggs, artichokes and smoked cheeses are among the least wine-friendly foods.
Should I always serve red wine with cheese?
No. Many softer cheeses go much better with whites, such as Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling.