Wine is amazing and also terrifying. Wine combines a beautiful history with fascinating science with a treasure hunt of sensations (aromatics! Tannins! Mouth-feel!) with getting rosy-cheeked and uninhibited. The problem is that when you don’t know every detail about all of this stuff, you can feel like wine is like that exclusive foursquare game the cool girls in third grade started where they said they had a rule of “no lines” so only the four of them could play but then when one of them was sick and you asked if now you could join they said they didn’t feel like playing foursquare today and you wanted to die a petite and horrible third grade death. So you pretend you don’t care about foursquare or mouth-feel because you’re not in the club.
Nothing creates this feeling of inadequacy more than wine pairings. I’ve taken wine classes. I have a little confidence. But when it comes to pairing wine with food, I’m usually at a bit of a loss, because the rules are full on bullshit. Ideally, you’re supposed to open up a few bottles and taste each with the food. I’m sorry, but who has the cash for that? Who has the food all ready to go before wine pouring time? And who’s throwing a dinner party at our age where it’s not up to the guests to bring beverages? This “ideal” situation is fraught.
So here’s my solution: don’t pair wine with food. Pair wine with feelings.
Are you feeling anxious? Calm down with something rich and red to dive into, like Syrah or Cabernet or Don Draper making you jam. Sweaty? I don’t care if you’re serving beef, you need a crisp Sauvignon Blanc to cool down. Already pretty drunk? Low-alcohol, mega refreshing Lambrusco is the way to go.
Pairing wine with feelings is most important when you’re not serving it with anything at all. Here I think it’s fair to make some hard and fast rules that you should totally break depending on your mood, what you like to drink, and what you have on hand/know how to open.
Official wine pairing rule: Serve red wine with red meat.
Wine + feelings rule: Serve red wine with rain.
Rain inspires either grouchy or poetic feelings. Either way, with both hands on your glass and your nose deep in it, sink into the murkiest, earthiest red you can find (if you have only one bottle of wine in your home, this qualifies) and read “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” again because—controversial statement alert—it is the best one by far.
Official wine pairing rule: Serve white wine with fish or vegetables.
Wine + feelings rule: Serve white wine after sex.
Let me set the scene here. You were funny and cool at dinner. Your partner was right there with you. Dinner progressed to your place which progressed to yesssssss. Now you’re thinking the water/cuddle/dream sharing aspect could be extended by sharing a glass or a bottle. You gulp your wine, thirsty from your coital adventures, feasting on the other person’s descriptions of when they knew they liked you. You throw back your head and let out a throaty, ultra-charming laugh and in the light from the bedside lamp, your hair is tousled and your neck is swan-like and your ears are a delicate arabesque and your teeth… are bright f-ing red. If you’re drinking fast and not eating and up close and personal, stick to white.
Official wine pairing rule: Don’t serve wine that’s been open for more than a day.
Wine + feelings rule: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA what am I a sultan? A sultan made of wine? Yeah no I’m def drinking this.
Official wine pairing rule: Make sure the acidity of the wine is higher than the acidity of the food.
Wine + feelings rule: Don’t drink wine before dropping acid. Let the acid kick in first, then decide how you feel.
Official wine pairing rule: High tannin wine like Cabernet needs to be cut with something fatty like steak, and will taste bitter if served with salad or other greens.
Wine + feelings rule: Don’t feel guilty about enjoying a glass of wine, or ordering the cheapest bottle on the menu, or not knowing the history of barrel making. It will make your experience bitter and fruitless. Enjoy yourself. A little treat and the pleasure it gives you is lovelier than all the fad diets and wine books in the world. Also, if you drink wine and eat salad, you are a straight up French person and I would like to be your friend.
But really, the only rule that matters when tasting and pairing and drinking and learning about wine is to have fun. Actually, additional rule, have enough cheap stemware that you can be super gracious if someone breaks a glass. Because there’s nothing that doesn’t go with being a lovely hostess.
(still super into this graphic which i made with my own treasured hands)