Wine’s not hard, and generally anyone telling you otherwise is a pretentious snob who should take his opinions on earthy undertones and berry highlights to someone who gives a damn. There’s something to be said for the professional sommelier, vintner, or wine steward, but we can give you everything you absolutely need to know right here.
Alcohol makes wine easy. It’s hard to screw up a wine pairing too badly because everyone at your table should be good and buzzed by the time the first bottle has gone down, and doubly so by the time you’ve finished the second. By the time you’ve gotten to the third bottle you could be serving Night Train cut with antifreeze and call it a dessert wine.
The rule of thumb is: just as the carpet should match the drapes, the color of the wine should match the color of the cuisine. Red wine for red meat and tomato pasta sauces, white wine for chicken, fish, and white pasta sauce.
Real men do not drink rosé.
Know your Reds
The most important reds are merlot, pinot noir, and cabernet sauvignon. More often than not you will get one of these three when you order the house red, which brings us to another good point: when in doubt, let the waiter take care of the hard decision and order the house wine. If you’re taking a date out for steak or pasta, order the house red when in doubt.
Of the three, merlot is the richest and the darkest. Cabernet sauvignon is the most tart of the three and makes for one of the best red pasta compliments around. Pinot noir is dry and has a bit of a light berry flavor which makes it perfect for stand-alone drinking. Pinot noir also tends to be a bit more expensive because the grapes used in its production are particularly hard to grow.
Wise up on Whites
Chardonnay, pinot grigio, and Riesling will get you through most any dinner of chicken, fish, or white pasta. All three are extremely versatile and can be sipped on their own in addition to being paired with food.
Chardonnay is probably the most popular white thanks doubtlessly in no small part to Alanis Morisette. It has a more citrusy flavor than other whites, especially Riesling, which has definite hints of apple. Pinot grigio is the lightest of the three – it goes well with anything, and is your safest bet when picking a wine to go with dinner.
Criticize the Critics
The great myth of wine is that certain wines only go with certain food. On the contrary, you should drink what you like and pair it with what you think works. The red-with-red / white-with-white rule is a safe bet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t gamble and win. Research lots of different wines with lots of different meals: you’ll learn fast, and you’ll have a sophisticated excuse for your crippling alcoholism. Bottoms up!