Wine Pairing Basics

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Food and wine pairing has never been easier thanks to practical tips from a Master Sommelier. Plus, learn about the only two wine glasses you’ll ever need!

If you read my Taste of ALDI post, you know I spent a couple of days at Bridlewood Estate Winery in Santa Ynez, California.

Leslee Miller, a dually certified Sommelier through the International Sommelier Guild and the Court of Master Sommeliers, taught a session on Wine Pairing. This lady knows her stuff.

Luckily, I know how to take notes.

Food and wine pairing has never been easier thanks to practical tips from a Master Sommelier. Plus, learn about the only two wine glasses you’ll ever need!

There’s a lot of information about wine tasting that is beyond the scope of this post. Tipping your glass to study the belly of the wine, swirling and smelling, and tasting the wine is all very interesting, but you can’t do any of that in the store while you’re shopping.

So, we’re going to talk about how to pair wines while you’re standing in the aisle at the grocery store.

Direct and Indirect Wine Pairing Instructions

This is going to sound very obvious, but many wines (and most of the wines at ALDI in particular) have information on the back of the bottle about how to pair them with food. There are both direct and indirect instructions.

Direct: Pairs well with braised short ribs, roasted rack of lamb, and dishes with a dark, rich sauce.

Indirect: Enticing aromas of vanilla and spice are followed by ripe flavors of blackberry, currant, and black cherry with a bittersweet chocolate finish.

The direct instructions are pretty straightforward. They are LITERALLY telling you what to pair with this wine (these are suggestions, not law, so you can follow their ideas or not).

The indirect instructions are a list of flavors that are present in the wine. So, look for flavors that will match the food you are cooking (or think of a way to incorporate a flavor from the wine in to your dish).

If you have the chance to taste a wine, incorporate some of those flavors you taste in to your final dish, too.

Food and wine pairing has never been easier thanks to practical tips from a Master Sommelier. Plus, learn about the only two wine glasses you’ll ever need!

Real Life Examples

I’m a firm believer in Practice Makes Perfect, especially when it comes to the kitchen. Here are some examples of ALDI wines, their labels, and how I’ve paired them.

Los Andicos Malbec + Cheese & Crackers 

On the bottle: Flavors of black cherry and plum. Pairs well with barbecued beef, ribs, or steak, rich red sauce pastas, and mild cheese varieties such as Gouda, Gruyere, or Provolone.

I love a good Malbec paired with cheese and crackers. It's perfect for a wine-tasting event!

Winking Owl Moscato + Chicken Tikka Masala

On the bottle: Flavors of ripe citrus, apricot, and peach. Serve with spicy cuisine, light cheeses, and desserts.

My heart sings when I pair this sweet, bubbly moscato with spicy foods like Chicken Tikka.

Ruzzare Lambrusco + Burgers

On the bottle: Fresh fruit aromas, strawberry and cherry flavors. Pairs well with pasta dishes, burgers, pizza, cold cuts, aged cheese, or on its own.

A classic Lambrusco is ideal for pairing with burgers and other hearty grilled meats. SO GOOD!

Ashokawna Pinot Noir + Grilled Lemon Pepper Chicken

On the bottle: Flavors of raspberries, cherries, and nutmeg. Enjoy with mushroom risotto or grilled halibut.

I love the light citrus notes in this Pinot Noir. It lends itself so perfectly to this easy Grilled Lemon Pepper Chicken.

Benedetto Chianti + Pizza

On the bottle: Full-bodied, ripe fruit, earth tones. Enjoy with pastas, roasted meats, pizza, and ripe cheese.

I tried this Chianti with pizza and it was PERFECTION!

Earth’s Harvest Chardonnay + Pineapple Salsa

On the bottle: Aromas of pear and peach, tropical flavors of pineapple and coconut. Serve with grilled salmon topped with mango salsa or honey glazed ham.

A fruity wine for a fruity salsa! I love Chardonnay with appetizers, especially when watching sports on TV!

The Only Two Wine Glasses You’ll Ever Need

Now that you’re versed on how to drink half a dozen wines, you might be worried that you need half a dozen different kinds of glassware to serve them. Fear not, friends!

The reality is, you only need two different kinds of wine glasses: a Burgundy and a Bordeaux.

The Burgundy glass has a wide bottom for swirling and aeration. Use that for your Chardonnays and your Pinot Noirs.

You only need TWO kinds of wine glasses, ever. Seriously. This Burgundy glass is one of them.

The Bordeaux glass is for everything else. Yep, you can drink everything else out of a Bordeaux.

You only need TWO kinds of wine glasses, ever. Seriously. This Bordeaux glass is one of them.

Leslee the Sommelier had us drink a Chardonnay out of a Bordeaux glass and it did, in fact, make a difference. We opened our mouths differently for the Bordeaux glass which caused the Chardonnay to hit our tongue differently and it created a tinny taste that is NOT present when you use a Burgundy glass.

So, there you have it. Evidentiary support.

Go Forth Into the World and Pair Wines

If you have ever been intimidated by wines or wine pairings, now you know the simple truth. If you can read, you can pair wines.

All the wines I featured in this post are from ALDI. They are world-class, high-quality wines (some even award winners!) and they are ridiculously affordable to boot.

The California ALDI stores have an expanded wine section, too. If you happen to live in the Golden State, you’ll have even more great wines at great prices to choose from!

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2 comments

  1. Great post! I especially love the Indirect Instructions. I’ve been to several wine pairing classes and no one has ever provided such a practical explanation of all the flavor notes as it relates to food pairing. Light bulb just went off! Well done :) 

    Also, I tip my hat off to all the Real Life Examples you provided. It must have been quite the project to recreate each dish to photograph with each wine :D 

    Cheers!

    • Thanks, Patty! :) Recreating those dishes to pair with the wines is a cross I must be bare… heh heh heh. I mean, pizza/burgers/chicken tikka/pineapple salsa, LIFE IS HARD. I am so happy to hear you found the post helpful. It did seem rather obvious when the sommelier broke it down for us. :)

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