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Selecting Wine
Selecting Northwest Wine

Selecting a wine that complements the main dish can be a major task if you try to follow all the guidelines for pairing wine and food.  On the other hand you can experiment by using wines you like and selectively applying the guidelines.  In most cases the dish is selected and the wine is chosen to complement the dish; however, the pairing can be reversed.  If you have a wine you like, you can use the guidelines to select the dish, sauce, or cooking method that complements your wine.

There are some general characteristics of wine that can be use to help match wine with food.  The following table contains some of the most important wine characteristics and guidelines that can be used  to help select the best wine for wild game dishes.  Other characteristics such as flavor, aroma, and sweetness can influence the pairing but interactions of these characteristics are a matter of personal preference.

                                      Wine Pairing Guidelines

Wine Body (Light-Medium-Full)
The body of the wine is the weight or viscosity of the liquid and how it feels when its in your mouth.  Light bodied wine feel watery and full bodied wines feel more like cream.

Guidelines -  To complement the dish,  light bodied wine should be paired with lighter foods, and full bodied wines matched with heartier dishes.  A light bodied wine (white or red) will complement fish and a full bodied red wine pairs well with hearty red meats.
Wine Tannins (Low-Moderate-High)
Tannins cause wines to have a bitter or astringent quality which are prominent in red wines. The tannins come from grape skins, seeds, and stems or oak barrels used for storage and aging.  Some tannins may be present in white wines that are aged in oak barrels.  Wines will be less tannic as they are aged and the tannins become mellow and softer.
Guidelines -   Tannic wines go well with low-salt and high fat foods with the fats reducing the dryness of the tannins.  Salty foods bring out the bitterness in the tannins and cream-based foods or sauces make tannins seem more dry or bitter.  Tannic wines can reduce the sweetness in foods.  Wine with high tannins can make fish taste metallic.  Proteins in red meat softens the tannins making the wines taste smooth and fruity.  Note: Wild game has less fat than domestic animals so a full bodied wine high in tannins may taste too dry or bitter.
Wine Acidity (Low-Moderate-High)
The wine acidity  comes from the grapes which contain primarily tartaric and malic and also from the fermentation process.  If a wine is too low in acid, it tastes flat and if too high, it tastes tart and sour. The range preferred by winemakers is a pH of 3.0 to 3.5.
Guidelines - Acidic wines complement almost any food and pair well with acidic foods such as citrus fruits and tomato sauces including creamy foods. They pair well with fish, fried foods, sour dishes, highly seasoned, and salty food.  In contrast, low acid wines often clash with acidic foods.  Wines with high acidity will tend to taste slightly sweeter with high acid foods.  Try to balance the acidity of the wine with the food, otherwise the lower acid component will taste dull and the higher acid component will taste tart.

Wine Alcohol (Low-High)
The body or weight of the wine is directly related to the amount of alcohol found in the wine.  In general, low levels of alcohol (10 to 13 percent) are found in light to medium bodied wine and high levels (14 to 17 percent) are associated with the more full bodied wines.  Low levels of alcohol have little effect on food.
Guidelines-  High alcohol wines are difficult wines to pair with foods and can overpower the dish. Wines with lower alcohol level can be matched to most dishes. Spicy or salty foods  do not pair well with high-alcohol wines. High alcohol wines often pair well with high fat dishes as the fat reduces the intensity of the alcohol.  Also the wines which have strong alcohol content should be paired with red meats that are grilled or roasted. High alcohol content goes well with slightly sweet foods. Light dishes such as fish pair better with low alcohol wines.  Note: Since wild game contain little fat,a wine with high alcohol level may not be a good match.

Other Pairing Guidelines

Guideline - Match the wine to the sauce and not the meat or fish. If the sauce includes a wine, serve the same wine with the dish.
Guideline - When using wine in marinades, use a good quality wine and it should be the same varietal as will be matched with the dish.  For a stronger flavor, use a full-bodied red and for a more delicate flavor, use a lighter red.
Poached or Steamed Dishes
Guideline - Use a light bodied wine that is acidic and contains low tannins.
Fried Dishes
Guideline - Select a wine with some acidity to contrast with the cooking oils.
Grilled Red Meat
Guideline - Serve a wine with medium to high tannins.  If the meat is well done, wine with high tannins may taste dry and if the meat becomes charred, the tannins may impart a bitter taste.
Guideline - The heavy smoke flavor can dominate the flavor of the wine. Smoked meat needs a red wine with moderate to high tannins with some spice and oaky flavor.