Many of us have heard the old adage to pair white wine with chicken and fish and red wine with red meat (like beef and lamb). Happily, that advice has pretty much gone out the window over the last few years. For one thing, where does pork factor in this configuration? What happens when you put a cream sauce on red meat? White wine with delicate fish and seafood works for sure, but what about heavier (dare I say “meaty”) fish like swordfish or a tuna steak? It’s called a “tuna steak” for a reason after all!
The best pairing advice has nothing to do with your protein (or vegetable if you swing that way). It’s all about the sauce! Or herbs, seasonings etc. When was the last time you cooked something and used absolutely no seasoning, herb, no pepper, no salt… Never, right? For that reason, when choosing a wine to pair with your meal, you should think less about the base and more about the flavors you are adding.
Now you needn’t worry about trying to remember every single herb or spice that pairs well with every single wine. Luckily, there are a few general guidelines:
Herbs are “soft” (basil, dill, parsley) or “hard” (rosemary, thyme). Soft herbs tend to do better with white and rosé wines and hard herbs with red wines.
Similarly, fresh herbs work better with white and rosé wines while dried herbs do better with red.
One doesn’t often cook with only one herb or spice. Think about the overall flavor profile of the dish and/or which is the dominant flavor. Parsley, for example, often gets overpowered by more strongly flavored herbs so for that dish don’t pair for the parsley.
Turkish wine still has a big question mark next to it for many people. The grapes can be difficult for foreigners to pronounce. If you get past that, the grape’s profile may be entirely new and not knowing what to expect flavor-wise could make you think twice before spending money on the bottle. There is also a terrible rumor that Turkish wine does not pair well with food. Don’t listen! It absolutely pairs well with not only Turkish but also international foods.
Got Thai food? Reach of an Emir. Indian dishes go well with Bornova Misketi and Hasandede. Bulgur? Pair it with reds like Adakarası and Papazkarası. Stuffed peppers and eggplant are marvelous with Barburi. Yogurt, ever present on the Turkish table; Öküzgözü rosé.
Why do some herbs and spices pair well with some wines but not others? Flavor compounds in grapes share the same compounds as some herbs and spices. We know that winemakers do not actually, for example, add black pepper or clove to Boğazkere but the wine has that flavor. So, while you are going crazy in the kitchen with adding flavors to your food, consider wines that also have those flavors. And if you still need a little help, below is a handy chart to get you started!