You managed to convince that hottie you’ve been eying at the gym to let you take her on a date. Now’s your chance to prove that you’re more than just deadlifts and six-pack abs. When the wine list comes your way, don’t look like a clueless neanderthal with these easy wine-pairing tips. Whether white, red or rosé, learn to uncork the perfect bottle of wine to complement any meal and show her your cultured side. Remember: Good food, good wine and good sex go hand-in-hand-in-hand. If you like a wine, chances are it will taste good with anything you eat. But keep in mind that heavier wines can overwhelm light dishes, while softer whites or reds won’t match up to a rich pasta or red meat dish. How a wine was produced, its alcohol content, age and price can determine its characteristics.
Identify the richness and weight of your meal before choosing a wine—or vice versa if you prefer choosing wine before food. Wines range in weight based on the individual grape (or varietals) being used, age, region and production process. Wine bottle labels will usually give you all the information you need—grape or blend of varietals, how it was produced, whether it’s light, medium or heavy and even some pairing options. A full-bodied wine can easily overpower your meal (i.e. An oaky Cabernet Sauvignon may eliminate the fruitiness or clash with the tartness of a citrusy salad or lighter dish featuring lemon sauce). If you want a lighter wine, opt for a younger white or red that wasn’t aged long before bottling or one that was produced mostly in stainless steel. Whites range from lighter Prosecco, Gewürztraminer or Pinot Grigio to medium to heavy alternatives like Viognier, dry Champagne or other sparkling wine, Sauvignon Blanc and oaked Chardonnay. White wines aged in oak—six months or longer—usually have a medium to fuller body. Light- or medium-bodied reds like a Beaujolais, Burgundy, Sangiovese or Côtes du Rhône won’t match up to the same meals requiring a deeper Petite Sirah, Shiraz/Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon.
Age v. Price Tag
An older, more expensive wine is not always the better choice. It may be great on its own, with a specific dish or could be well beyond its years and lost all of its characteristics. Don’t always focus on older and expensive. There are some wines that are specifically produced to age over time, bringing out secondary characteristics of fruit, spice and other features over several decades—thus, the higher price tag. If you want to explore a Gran Cru, Barolo, Bordeaux or another age-worthy wine throughout its years, then pay up and explore. (If you choose a wine that can age for two or more decades from the vintage year on the bottle, chances are it may taste tighter and not have released its fruits and other layers of flavor if drunk too early.) Opt for a modest-priced wine at $10 to $35 that is more likely ready for consumption (and enjoyment) now.
The alcohol content won’t just get her drunk faster. Wines with a 12 percent or lower alcohol content tend to be lighter-bodied, while those with 14 percent or higher are richer and require a complementary meal to match.
The color of wine can tell you a lot about its taste. Reds range in color from rose, pink or salmon, medium-hued maroon or blood red and deep garnet. Lighter reds are usually near-weightless in taste, whereas the depth of taste thickens as its colors become more profound. The same goes for whites: straw-colored, near-opaque whites are more delicate than more golden or light brown whites. Darkness can signify an older white. In white wine, it may also mean there’s more sugar. A sweet dessert wine like a late harvest Riesling or Sauternes will be more golden and amber-tinted. The same goes for deeper, garnet reds like Malbec or Port. Sometimes it’s hard to see the color of a wine through its bottle, which is when age, alcohol, production and price tag can help you choose the best bottle.
If it Tastes Good…
…drink it! Don’t get too caught up with wine pairing “rules.” “My theory has always been a simple one: Drink what you like, eat what you like,” says fourth-generation California winemaker John Concannon. So even if Pinot Grigio with filet mignon or a deep, velvety Rioja Gran Reserva with fish is something you enjoy, then go for it. It may not be someone else’s pairing of choice, but all food and wine matches were never made for everyone. If the food and wine combo of choice doesn’t insult your palate, it’s a perfect match.