Selecting Your First Wine Pairings

While you may love cherries, your sister might turn down anything with them in it. The same goes for wine pairings -- your own taste and experiences are what really matter. Austin is a city that encourages individualism and uniqueness, and that spills over into the wines you choose to pair with your foods. But when you're just starting out, you may need some help figuring out what it is you like, so we've put together these guidelines to get you on your way.

Champagne Pairings
In general, the rule of thumb is to go from light to dark as you move through the courses, so Champagne and other bubbly wines go well with appetizers and light fare. Keep in mind that Champagne only comes from Champagne, France -- the rest of it is called sparkling wine. You're best off choosing an extra dry or brut bubbly so that the flavor doesn't overpower the food. Champagnes and sparkling wines are traditionally paired with cheese, raw oysters, shrimp, stuffed mushrooms and sushi.

Try: Henri Abele Champagne with cucumber maki

White Wine Pairings
When pairing foods with wines, you should think about complementing and aligning the textures and ingredients. For example, when serving a salad with a vinegarette, you'll want to choose a wine with a high acid content, such as a Sauvignon Blanc. Spicy foods, such as those found in Thai and Indian cuisine, are best paired with a complex, multifaceted wine, such as a Riesling. The key to thoughtful pairing lies in the matchmaking of the flavors of the food and those of the wine.

Try: Sonoma Coast vineyards Laguna Vista Sauvignon Blanc with a citrus based salad.

Red Wine Pairings
When you're pairing wines, keep in mind that flavor is key to making the match, so when you're looking for something to go with a meat with sauce or seasoning, you want to concentrate on the flavor of that element. For example, if you're preparing a steak that has been soaked in a smoky marinade, you'll want to choose a wine that will bring out those smoky, rich flavors. In that case, a Malbec is a great choice -- particularly ones with vanilla, which will balance out the smokiness of the meat.

Try: Valentin Bianchi Elsa Malbec with your favorite barbecue marinade.

Dessert Wines
Dessert wines are often viewed as that mysterious part of the wine world that even experienced wine drinkers shy away from. In actuality, they're sweet wines that can stand alone or be paired with desserts; however, they work best with desserts that aren't overly sweet. Dessert wines also go well with cheese, such as a Sauternes wine paired with a blue cheese variety.

Try: Chateau Henye Tojaki Aszueszencia with a dark chocolate (60% or darker)