Wine and food were meant for each other. "Wine is Food". Each one enhances and strengthens the experience of the total. So why is it so seemingly difficult attempting to pair foods with wines? There are hefty laundry lists of rules and regulations that require strict adherence in order to obtain the perfect wine and food pairing.
Rule #1 states that there are NO rules when matching your favorite wines with your beloved recipes, sure there are hints and popular, even “famous” matches, but ultimately the best match is what pleases your palate. It truly is personal preference.
Wine and Food Flavors: First consider flavor interactions. You are only able to detect four distinct flavors with your tongue: sweet, sour, salty and bitter; while your nose is able to decipher over 2000 different aromas. Between the combination of sensory aromas from both your tongue and your mouth you are able to experience a vast array of flavor characteristics and a number of nuances. Keep in mind that the flavors of the foods can both contradict and compliment wine selections, and both can be good. Example might be a sweet Riesling can make a bag of salty chips taste even more appealing by contrasting the saltiness while yielding some of its sweetness, or when paired with a rich dessert like cheesecake the sweetness of the wine would likely mellow in flavor due to the overriding influence of the cheesecake.
Heavy vs. Light Pairing: Consider whether a dish is “heavy” or “light” in nature, the difference between meals consisting of a steak and with potatoes or one that tends toward chicken and vegetable stir-fry. In general, most people seem to prefer heartier foods paired with fuller-bodied red wines and lighter fare to be complimented by more delicate white wines. These are preference generalizations, a place to start and then experiment with your own combinations. Although some people tend to find it easier to remember red wines with red meats and white wines enhance white meats. This is, of course, an old adage and not considered a rule any longer.
Other Factors to Consider: Other factors to take into account when looking at pairing potentials is the foods acidity. Acidic foods, like say a Greek salad or lemon-based sauce work well with wines that share an acidic undertone (Pinot Grigio (Pinot Gris) for example). While foods that lean to the sweeter side, like maybe a chicken apple salad, tend to pair well with wines that are just a tad drier than the food they are to compliment (for example an off-dry Riesling).
Whatever match you make with foods and wines, enjoy the adventure, and don’t get too caught up in the rumored regulations. Make a note of pairings you’ve enjoyed for future reference and keep mixing and matching to learn how each component offers influences, be they subtle or strong.