Most people think there are strict rules when it comes to food and wine. Many people still stick to the old stand-by: white wine with fish and red wine with meats. With all the types of wines available today there is no limit to the combinations available. The taste is in the mouth of the beholder so try a couple different wines with a meal to see what works for you. As a starting point, try to match the wines flavors with the foods flavors. Think about how the foods flavors the same way you think about the flavors in wine: if a dish has a citrus element then it has a fruity flavor and if it has mushrooms it has an earthy flavor and so on. After considering the flavors of the food try and match the wine with the same flavors to complement each other. Also, try and match a wines intensity of flavor such as a California Cabernet Sauvignon with a hearty dish such as stew or a wines texture such as a rich, buttery Chardonnay with the rich texture of lobster. Remember, only you can tell what you like so experiment and have fun with it.
If you have trouble or need any advice on finding the right wine for a meal you are serving please feel free to just ask a fine wine consultant. They will be more than happy to share their passion for wine with you.
According to Sid Goldstein The Wine Lovers Cookbook. San Francisco: Chronicle, 1999. There are 6 steps in his guidelines (Pages in book (16-17)):
Balance: Use the dominate flavor of a dish, often the sauce, as your guide in pairing. For example, use the wine used in the sauce as the compliment drink with the dish.
Contrast: Opposites attract, therefore sweet wine goes with sour or acidic food. Subdued, complex older wines deserve simple foods not heavy sauces.
Highly seasoned foods: Spicy, salty, and smoky flavors are best paired with fruity, low tannin, lower alcohol-content wines.
Rich foods: Rich and fatty foods often work well with full-bodied Chardonnay, Cabernet sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel or syrah.
Sweet foods: The sweetness of the dish should be less than the sweetness of the wine. This is easily accomplished by adding citrus juice or vinegar to the dish.
High acid: Highly acidic foods such as tomatoes, citrus fruits and goat cheese usually go best with acidic wines such as a Sauvignon Blanc.