Erik Neilson on January 10, 2017 0 Comments Ask anyone who holds a deep understanding of wine, and chances are they’ll tell you that the beverage really shines when paired with the right food. Food and wine have been tied at the the hip for centuries, and for good reason. Certain characteristics of food can bring out hidden flavors in some wines that many people don’t even realize are there. This being said, not all food and wine pairings are created equal, and the wrong combinations can be enough to turn people off completely. While learning how to pair wine and food is a largely experimental process, there are some pairings that have been proven time and time again to fall short. The following wine pairing mistakes should be avoided at all costs, especially if you’re entertaining guests. 1. Caviar and Heavy Wines (Cabernet Sauvignon) Ah, caviar. The richness and opulence associated with a can of fish eggs is difficult to beat, and anyone who has had the experience of eating truly fine caviar knows just how delicate it can be. For some reason, many people believe that caviar should be paired with rich, bold wine like Cabernet Sauvignon, which does nothing but result in an awful experience — think swampy grape juice, and you’ll get the idea. Caviar doesn’t deserve to be overwhelmed and will be much better served alongside a glass of Cava or Champagne. After all, what can be more opulent than sparkling wine? 2. Champagne and Chocolate Cake Sticking with Champagne for a moment, we’ve already talked about one of its best pairings. What’s one of its worst pairings? Chocolate cake. Surprisingly enough, chocolate and bubbles often go hand-in-hand and is a combination that is served in restaurants all throughout the world. If you’ve ever tried it, however, you know that the tartness of the Champagne fights against the cake’s sweetness and that no harmony is found in most cases. Save the Champagne for special occasions — it doesn’t fit with chocolate desserts. 3. Pinot Grigio and Roast Beef There are few foods that match the juicy richness of perfectly cooked roast beef. In some cases, roast beef is almost too much to eat without a beverage on the side to add balance, which is where wine comes in. Too often, however, the mistake of pairing a light, white wine with roast beef as a method of “cutting the fattiness” is made. What actually happens, however, is that the wine falls short of being able to stand up to the meat, thus spoiling the entire experience as a whole. A much better pairing would be a sturdy, tannic wine like Monastrell, or maybe Cabernet Sauvignon. These have the backbone necessary for pairing with the richest of meats and will never fall apart in the glass the way lighter wines might. 4. Syrah and Glazed Chicken Syrah is loved the world over for its juicyness and big character. It’s perfect on its own and when properly paired with food, making it a favorite of both home cooks and professional sommeliers alike. One mistake that even some somms make, however, is pairing Syrah with heavily sauced items like glazed or sweet and sour chicken. This is a mistake because both the wine and the food are enough to overwhelm your palate. They combine to create a perfect storm that does far more harm to the meal than it does good. Stick with a tropical white such as Sauvignon Blanc; the pairing will be far more balanced. 5. Chardonnay and Goat Cheese Goat cheese is typically associated with extremely powerful, astringent flavors that can come alive when paired with the right wine. These same flavors can destroy more delicate wines, however, and the buttery Chardonnay is often the victim. It’s a popular pairing that exists within the restaurant community, yet it almost never works properly. Goat cheese is highly acidic and requires a wine that features similar acid levels such as Zinfandel and Cabernet Franc. It may sound counter-intuitive, but once you’ve tried this pairing, there’s no going back. 6. Cabernet Sauvignon and Fish At the end of the day, we tend to order the type of wine we enjoy drinking, regardless of what the meal might be. It’s often possible to get away with these biases, but not in the case of Cabernet Sauvignon and fish. You may feel like reaching for a bold red before the meal comes out, but if you’ve ordered fish, the food will be completely overwhelmed and destroyed by the tannic bitterness of your wine. Certain lighter reds like Frappato can sometimes pair with seafood dishes, but in general, keep the Cab for later in the meal and stick with a refreshing Semillon instead. 7. High-Alcohol Wine and Spicy Food Spicy food is notoriously difficult to pair with wine, and experts are continuously searching for combinations that work well together. No matter how spicy the food in front of you happens to be, it’s essential to remember that high-alcohol wines will do nothing to tame the plate in front of you. The combination of excessive spice and robust alcohol qualities will only confuse your tongue even more, which is why it’s more effective to choose a crisp, low-alcohol white that has been properly chilled and can help stave off the spice of your food. Your results may vary, but lots of alcohol and lots of spice generally doesn’t end well. 8. Pinot Noir and Vinegary Dishes Pinot noir is deliciously fruity and truly has versatility in the kitchen. One area where it does not shine, however, is with vinegary dishes. Whether it be a vinegar-laden sauce or otherwise on the plate, the fruitiness of Pinot Noir will be overwhelmed and broken down, resulting in a flat pairing where neither the food nor the wine tickles the palate in a positive manner. Pinot should instead of be served alongside more mild dishes, which will allow its characteristics to come out unmuted. Remember that the overarching rule of pairing wine and food is to experiment and find what works best for you. With that in mind, kick the above pairing mistakes to the curb, and you’ll have a much better chance of stumbling upon the perfect pairings.