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Champagne Wine Juicy Reds Rich Wine Crisp White Smooth Reds Pink Wine Soft White Bold Reds Sweet Wine

Only sparkling wines come from the Champagne region in northeastern France and are the only wines that can legally be called Champagne in Europe.

The acidity and effervescence of sparkling wines helps stimulate the appetite, making them perfect sipping wines. Sparkling wines are traditionally paired with luxury foods such as caviar, oysters, and foie gras, where their flavors and textures are a natural match. But sparkling wines are also surprisingly good with more casual fare, such as salty, deep-fried snacks. Here, the wine's acid tames the salt while at the same time it cuts through the richness of the food's cooking oil. Texturally, the match also works: the wine's crisp bubbles are perfectly suited to the crispness of a potato chip or fried wonton.

Aging in oak adds complexity to a wine. Juicy reds see little, if any, oak, so their fruit flavours remain prominent, and the wines remain relatively simple. These wines are a popular choice for new wine drinkers who are just beginning to explore red wines.

Like pink wines, juicy reds can bridge the gap when you are serving foods that can be paired with either a white or a red wine, although they don't match well with subtle, complex dishes, which can overwhelm the wine's simple nature. But these appealing wines are a good match for informal dishes. In the Old World, where wine drinking is a daily occurrence, juicy reds are paired with everyday meals. For example, the smokey flavour imparted from cooking over a charcoal grill nicely plays off the fruit flavours in the wine. The refreshing qualities of juicy reds are enhanced when they are lightly chilled.

The best rich whites have lively acidity to offset their lushness; such well-balanced wines will also pair better with food. Richly flavoured or textured food is the best match here, but dishes that are too complex can compete with the layered flavours of the wine.

A buttery wine is a natural match for foods topped with a butter- or cream-based sauce. Rich, meaty fish and shellfish, such as crab, lobster, and scallops, are also natural partners, as their dense texture and opulent flavours match that of the wine. The full, rich texture imparted by braising foods helps match the wine's round mouthfeel. Foods with bolder, more exotic flavours often do better with full-bodied whites that feature spice, honey, or stone-fruit aromas. Avoid pairing rich whites with very spicy dishes, which will highlight the alcohol and oak in the wine, rather than the other flavour.

Like crisp whites, soft whites are good sipping wines, loved for their velvety, easy-drinking qualities. They are also regarded as great food partners for similar reasons. Soft whites' bracing acidity cuts through rich sauces based on cream or coconut milk, while their slight sweetness-desirable in this style of wine helps counteract spicy or salty ingredients.

Riesling is a traditional partner for traditional Alsace cured meat dishes. For a more offbeat match, try soft whites with sushi or sashimi; the wine's supple mouthfeel complements the texture of the raw fish, while its delicate sweetness counters salty soy sauce and spicy wasabi. Other Asian foods, too, are a wonderful match; thanks to their affinity for the complex flavours of the cuisines, soft whites are commonly featured on wine lists at contemporary Vietnamese, Thai, and Chinese restaurants.

Crisp whites have pronounced acidity, often coupled with "green," vegetal and citrus aromas. Good acidity is prized in all crisp whites, but it shouldn't overwhelm the mouth. Not enough acidity and a wine can taste dull, but a wine that is too acidic is considered out of balance. You want to think "zesty" and "zingy," not "sharp" and "sour" when you sample a crisp white wine. Experts claim that the distinct acidity of crisp whites actually helps food taste better-think of how a squeeze of lemon on a simply cooked fish fillet brings out the fish's flavour.

In general, crisp whites work well with light foods, as their light body forms a match based on complementary textures. You can also pair crisp whites with rich foods to make an intriguing contrast, but take care that the rich food isn't so powerful that it overwhelms the wine, and add companion ingredients to form a stronger link between the two partners. Crisp whites match well to salty or briny foods, forming a bracing contrast with such things as oysters. Crisp whites can also be paired successfully with acidic foods or salad dressings, as the acidity of the wine helps cancel out the sharpness of vinegar.

Since smooth reds have more pronounced tannins-albeit soft ones, their qualities are best shown when paired with food. Smooth wines are versatile food companions, matching equally well with roast chicken or pan-fried beef. That said, since they are so subtle, it's best not to pair smooth reds with rich, fatty meats or bold spices, both of which could overwhelm this style of wine.

Precisely because smooth reds are so versatile, it is difficult to pinpoint specific foods that pair well with them. But there are a number of things you can do to ensure a good wine match. If the wine has an herbal component, add a handful of fresh herbs to the dish to help it better match to the wine. If you detect an earthy aroma in the wine, consider using mushrooms in the recipe.

 

Powerful, this style of wine can seem unappealingly dark and tannic without food to counteract its strength. Some winemakers like to round out the flavours and textures by blending in other grapes. Bordeaux winemakers are famous for this strategy, adding velvety Merlot, meaty Malbec, and other grapes to lend softness and complexity to their Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines.

Bold red wines have some of the most unique flavours of all the wine styles. It is not uncommon for people to perceive such nuances as lead pencil, saddle, barnyard, tar, cigar box, and eucalyptus in the wines. Strange as they may seem, these flavours marry well with a variety of strong meats and pungent game dishes. Simply grilled or panfried meats can also work well, but full-flavoured cuts that have a good proportion of fat are best, as they counteract the wine's tannins. Bold wines with fruit flavours can stand up to barbecue-style sauces or mildly spiced dishes.

Roses start as red wines do, except that the fermenting juice is kept in contact with the grape skins for a much shorter period of time than a fully red wine. This process allows some colour to be extracted from the skins, but very little of the tannin that is associated with red wines made from the same grapes. Pink wines are all about fruit, so you want to drink them while they are young.

Roses are growing in popularity across Europe (in France more Rose is now sold than White wine). It's typical to serve them well chilled to highlight their refreshing qualities. As with crisp whites, roses' bracing acidity acts like a lemon squeeze for food, highlighting a dish's flavours. Roses can also stand up to sour or salty ingredients and are extremely good at standing up to heavily spiced dishes and as such are perfect both for Asian cuisine and climate.

Many sweet wines are labelled "late-harvest," which means the grapes are picked several days, sometimes even weeks, after the normal harvest is finished. During this time the grapes become exceedingly sweet as their natural sugars concentrate. When making the wine, fermentation is stopped before all the sugar is converted to alcohol, leaving behind a sweet impression.

When pairing sweet wines with food, look to the relative smell of the wine to dictate what is served with it. Apricot-scented wines pair well with desserts featuring nuts, caramel, or honey. Almond- or orange-scented wines go well with desserts based on apples or pears. Wines with berry or nutty aromas can pair well with chocolate. But the most important thing to remember when pairing sweet wines with food is that the wine should be at least as sweet as the food served with it.