Wine 101

Pair wine and food properly at that next business dinner.

By Meg Hemmerle

Business is tricky, but sometimes wine pairing and etiquette can be even trickier. The old rules of wine pairing no longer apply as strictly as they once did. According to Cadillac Wines’ sommelier Masumi Pinto, many people think that red wine is strictly meant for enjoying with a steak, while white pairs best with fish.

“Traditional wine rules are no longer as important as they used to be,” Pinto said. “You can drink a white wine with a steak; you’d want to match it with a bold, oak wine. Pinot noir goes exceptionally well with salmon.”

Here, a few tips on pairing wines and displaying perfect etiquette.

1. Match heavy foods with heavy wines and light foods with light wines.

When pairing a white wine with a red meat meal or red wine with something other than steak, it is important to match the wine and food, body to body. “If you have a light dish, go for a light wine versus a bold one,” Pinto said. 

2. Go for a high-acid wine.

According to Pinto, cabernet sauvignon and a nice oak chardonnay from Napa Valley tend to be the most popular wines here in Texas, but when it comes to pairing food and wine, high-acid wines are best. A sauvignon blanc or cabernet will pair best with most foods.
The high-acid wine works with the fat in the food to create a balanced blend. The wine makes your mouth water from the acid, which cuts the fat lipid from the food. This is why wine and cheese are one of the most well-known food pairings. Pinto’s favorite food and wine pairing is a French sauvignon blanc, particularly Sancerre, and goat cheese with honey.

However, for those who are new to drinking wine and unsure about what they like, choosing between a red or white is the first step. After deciding that, it’s best to start with an off-dry wine on the medium sweetness side that’s not too high in acid.

3. Dessert wines aren’t just for dessert.

“Often people will finish with a dessert wine, but there are many different variations of it to be had throughout the meal,” Pinto said. “Wine is meant to be enjoyed; if you really love sweet or sparkling wine, you can drink it at any time during the meal. There is no one type of wine for one situation.”

4. Start sparkling.

Pinto does advise that if you are changing drink orders throughout the night, you should try to start with a sparkling wine before ordering a white and then red. “Red wine is bold, so if you have that before white, you won't taste the white as much. You want to start light and make your way to bold,” Pinto said.