How to Choose a Wine

Right now, vino is pretty damn keen-o. Never before has wine enjoyed the prominence and popularity it does now, whether being imbibed by scenesters, serving as a social lubricant at fancy fetes, or getting lauded in flicks like Sideways.

So it's probably a good idea your uncultured ass knew about selecting the right wine for an occasion, be it hosting a debonair dinner or giving a magnum as a gift.

There are voluminous amounts of info devoted to oenophilia, but since you don't have years to devote to your négociant skills, we've asked Luis Chance, resident sommelier of Sportsman's Fine Wines & Spirits in Phoenix, for some guidelines on satisfying everyone's grape expectations.

First, a general rule of thumb is matching red wines with beef, and white wines with poultry, pork, and seafood. A higher concentration of tannins, an astringent chemical from grape skins, found in red wines creates a metallic taste when mixed with fish, so refrain from serving up Cabernet Sauvignon with your salmon.

Chance suggests "thinking geographically" when pairing wine with foods. For instance, German sausages go great with Riesling, while veal Parmesan is complemented by Chianti.

Either way, the goal is complementing or enhancing vittles with vino, and vice versa. Neither flavor should overpower the other. Another hint is to match the texture of food with that of the wine. Richer, fattier, and more luxurious dishes call for a fuller-bodied selection, and conversely, lighter fare benefits from breezier wines. Making pasta with creamy pesto sauce? Try a Chardonnay. Noshing on poached halibut? Get some Sauvignon Blanc.

Chance also advises matching "like foods with like wines." For instance, more acidic or spicier foods like Thai or Spanish cuisines benefit from more acidic vinos like Chenin Blanc, canceling out all the acridness and harmonizing the respective flavors. Consequently, sweeter foods like apple strudel benefit from Sweet Muscat, and so on.

None of these rules are hard and fast, and Chance recommends experimenting with comparing and contrasting different foods with different wines, like pairing fiery Vietnamese cuisine with a Sweet Rosé.

"What matters most is trying foods you like with wines you like, and oftentimes you'll be surprised at the result," Chance says.

But if you're unsure of what's on the menu at your pal's party, the sommelier suggests some Pinot Noir or Rosé, both of which are "popular and versatile wines that go good with all foods." And if all else fails, consult experts like Chance for advice on what to pick. A-Z of Food & Wine
A massive index of different dishes and suitable wines.

Wine Anorak
A U.K.-based site featuring wine pairings with food and even television shows.

Wine Spectator
Surf this site for even more wise wine advice.

Sportsman's Fine Wines & Spirits
3205 East Camelback Road, Phoenix

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.

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