Wine Tips from Sommelier Zoltan Szabo of Toronto - Canada

January 2005

A Learned Response: “This wine would go well with a triple-cream cheese.” Many of our wine pairing preferences are learned by experience; however, whether they’re classic pairings or unorthodox combinations, it’s what works for you that’s the guiding factor: personal taste rules.

Texture: Match “power with power;” light-textured food balances better with lighter-bodied wines, while heavier dishes demand fuller-bodied wine. It’s not just the amount of alcohol or kinds of flavors involved; mouthfeel plays an important role.

Cooking methods: Poaching, searing, grilling – each method changes the intensity of the dish and emphasizes different textures and flavors; knee-jerk pairings deserve reconsideration when a different cooking method comes into play.

Complement or Contrast: A contrasting wine – high-acid white with a richer dish – cleanses the palate and invigorates the appetite; a bigger wine which complements the richness makes for a meditation from one bite to the next.

Dominant Flavor: The protein is not always the dominant flavor in a dish; keep the sauce – especially traditional, high-in-fat sauces – in mind when you’re choosing the wine.

Keeping wine in order: Whether alone or with food, you’ll get the most out of your wine drinking if you keep some things in order; otherwise the wines may suffer in comparison of their predecessors. So:

1. Dry wine before sweet wine
2. Lower alcohol before higher alcohol
3. Sparkling wines before still wines
4. Younger wines before older wines
5. Light wines before full-bodied wines

Finally, when you order a bottle of wine to go with a multi-course meal – or when everyone has ordered something different – keep an eye out for crossover wines – wines that can pair with two or three different dishes. New World Sauvignon Blanc, Indigenous Italian whites, California Pinot Noir, and Southern Italian reds are all good examples of versatility.