"Red wine with hamburgers, white wine with fishburgers" read the greeting card my husband selected for his mother's university graduation celebration. (She went back to school as a mature student and received her undergrad degree when my hubby was 14 years old). This was his first lesson in food & wine pairing (and not a bad place to start).
However there is much more to this subject and it got me to thinking what are some of the common myths (or mistakes that I find people make) around food & wine pairing.
Myth #1: Serve big red wines with spicy foods. Wines that contain high levels of tannic acid (e.g. tannins) will actually elevate the "heat" in a dish, making it even more spicy! A great outcome for dares but not so much for dates or dinner parties.
Myth #2: Serve only white wine with fish. Not necessarily. Despite my hubby's early pairing advice to his mother, many of today's fish dishes with interesting preparations and sauces can often warrant a delicate red. Think Pinot Noir or Gamay (e.g. Beaujolais Nouveau).
Myth #3: Champagne is for celebrations only. Champagne is actually one of the most food friendly wines because of it's high acidity and palate cleansing properties. Serve it with appetizers or dessert to add a little festivity to your meal.
Myth #4: Sweet wines are best left for dessert. Sweet wines can be a great complement to salty dishes. For example, Sherry and Muscat go well with oysters, olives and nuts.
Myth #5: Food & Wine pairing is an exact science. While there are some guidelines and principles that can be learned and are relatively easy to follow - my favorite is when in doubt choose a wine from the region the cuisine originates from - food & wine pairing is as much art and practice.
I'm not sure that "food & wine pairing is just a big scam", but I do agree that you should learn and then experiment with your own tastes. You might be surprised that my father-in-law's favorite food and wine pairing is unsalted peanuts in the shell with a cheap chardonnay. Whatever makes you and your taste buds happy!
If you are interested in learning more about food & wine pairing, complete with lots of yummy tasting, check out Savvy Cellar's Introduction to Food & Wine Pairing class (2-night) Monday, Nov. 10th & 17th, 7-9pm.
If you get really good at food & wine pairing you may be able to stump professional sommeliers or play parlor tricks on your friends and even know how to tackle pairing wine with the dreaded artichoke!