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Jerry Comfort, an educator with Beringer Vineyards, would like you to forget everything you know about pairing wine and food. Don’t try to match food and wine from the same region (too hit-or-miss). Refrain from mirroring the color and flavor of a wine to the food (this only leads to the limiting white-with-fish, red-with-meat system).
Instead, because food changes the way wine tastes—not the other way around—you want to create pairings that leave the wine tasting as close to the winemaker’s intention as possible. How? By pairing wine to taste (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami), as opposed to flavor (lemon, coriander, licorice).
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If this sounds intimidating, Comfort has developed the Progressive Food Menu, which explains, in detail, pairing know-how. Here, three guiding principles:
1. Dishes seasoned with the right amount of salt and acidity pair with the widest variety of wines. Simply by sprinkling sea salt and squeezing lemon on fish, the dish can stand up to the heartiest red.
2. Dishes that are sweet, spicy, or dominated by umami make all wines taste more acidic. Pair these dishes with off-dry and lighter wines. For example, try Riesling with sushi and wasabi, or White Zinfandel (or another off-dry Rosé) with sweet and spicy Buffalo chicken wings.
3. Pair sweet desserts with an even sweeter dessert wine.