Food and wine pairing can be tricky, even for professionals. However, there are a couple of rules that, if you stick to them, make pairing food and wine easy.
If you start with a dish that you want to serve then you can work backward from there. Think about your dish: what is the overall flavor of the dish? This isn’t necessarily based on the type of protein you are serving, but often the sauce. Try to pair with that.
There is a regularly spoken rule in food and wine pairing that white wine goes with fish and other white meats, and red wine goes with red meats. This is a good rule of thumb, especially when starting but it doesn’t always apply.
Think about the weight of your food. Is it a light salad? You should pair it with a light-bodied wine. It’s a heavy stew? It will be perfectly matched with a full-bodied wine.
Are you serving a regional dish? If you are serving something that’s very typically Italian then serve it with a bottle of Italian wine. If you’re serving paella, serve it with a bottle of Spanish coastal wine. The reason why this works so well is that typically the wine and the food were developed over hundreds of years in concurrence with each other.
There are generally two different ways of pairing wines: congruent pairing, which means that you would pair a lemon-based sauce with a wine with sour notes. This is a very popular- and probably the easier way of pairing wines.
However, if you choose this method then you must have a wine that is more of whatever the flavor is. That means if it’s a pairing of sweet food and sweet wine, you will need to choose a wine that is sweeter than the dish. This is because the dish runs the risk of washing out the wine and ruining both.
Alternatively, you could try a complementary pairing. A complimentary wine pairing will make the food taste better with the differences between the two. A good example of this is a creamy dish- for example, a chicken alfredo paired with a tart white wine such as a Pinot Grigio. This combination will allow the best of each component to be presented on your palette.