What a great article about food-wine pairing. Summarizing:
1. Most meat and dairy contains fat. There are three ways to choose wine to "marry" well with the fat:
a. A wine with higher acid, which balances the fat;
b. A with higher tannin (from oak aging, or from time on the stems and seeds) cuts the fat in the mouth; and
c. A wine with higher alcohol matches the heaviness of the fatty food.
I might add that wine also cuts the fat chemically--just sautee some fatty meat and remove it, leaving some fat and fatty bits in the pan, and then add wine and scrape--the wine breaks up the fat. This is simplistic, but in my mind I visualize the wine's breaking up the fat before it can be deposited in my arteries ;)
2. With an acidic dish, make sure the wine has more acid than the food. This can mean reducing the amount of vinegar in a salad, or looking for higher-acid wines. In a white wine, about 0.70% Titrable Acid (TA) is a good target level to consider; in a red, it's often closer to 0.60%. If acid gets much higher than those target levels, then most wines will need some residual sugar (RS) to balance the high acid. But bear in mind that copious fruit in a wine can fool the tongue into thinking a wine is sweet when it's really dry.
3. Salty foods call for sweet or sparkling wines.
4. Desserts need wines which are sweeter than the dessert.
Two more examples why you should be VERY cautious before paying, say, $25 or more for a bottle of wine:
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