We love pairing food and wine, and we love it even more when people don’t take the whole thing too seriously. By all means you should seek out great food and wine pairings, but for most of us it’s not going to be a matter of life and death. A bit of experimentation, trial and the occasional error are fine. If you’re a Master Sommelier designing a pairing menu at a restaurant with a couple of Michelin stars, then sure – you probably should sweat the details. Otherwise, don’t worry too much and seek out pleasure rather than perfection. Perfection is unattainable anyway, right?
With that said, we have a confession to make. There are a number of truly awful food and wine pairings that just do not work. We’re all about personal choice and taste preferences, but trust us: Remember these few and avoid them at all costs, and you’ll never go too wrong!
Bad food and wine pairings
Cabernet Sauvignon and sushi
. Left bank Bordeaux and Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon come to mind, as do other wines like Italian Barolo and Chianti. You could probably substitute “any tannic red wine” here, to be safe. It is a rare case in which the wine and the food literally bring out the worst in each other. If sushi is your thing, hold off on the red altogether and consider instead a crisp dry white like Ekam Riesling.
Red Bordeaux and oysters.
It’s somewhat ironic that this is such a terrible pairing when you consider just how popular oysters are in Bordeaux and its surrounding areas such as Arcachon and Cap Ferret. Oysters take on a decidedly metallic taste when washed down with red Bordeaux, and that’s definitely not a good thing. Avoid it like the plague, and enjoy your oysters with a dry white Bordeaux like Château Malartic Lagravière or a bone-dry Cava like Bertha Brut Nature Reserva.
Champagne and cake
. Champagne? Good. Cake? Good. What’s not to like? The problem lies particularly with totally dry Champagne (or Cava or any other sparkling wine for that matter) – it just does not respond well to the overt sweetness of the cake. This is something of an anomaly, as sparkling wines can be very useful foolproof food wines. Don’t do this one, though! Instead, have your cake and drink it with a fortified dessert wine from Sherry or Montilla Moriles, such as Gran Barquero Pedro Ximénez.
Pinot Noir with Chicken in white wine and tarragon sauce
. The acidity and gentle floral fruit of the wine is going to be destroyed by the tarragon herbs and clash with the acidity of the white wine sauce. One surefire trick is to pair this particular dish with the white wine used for the sauce. It needn’t be anything overly expensive, but a good quality Sauvignon Blanc like Analivia Sauvignon Blanc from Rueda will stand you in good stead for both the sauce and the wine pairing!