I first moved to the Okanagan some 25+ years ago. I was not a wine drinker, let alone someone who knew about food and wine pairing. Back then, all I knew was meat colour = wine colour. Times were so much simpler, albeit not as tasty as today.
Red for red and white for white does still work to a degree, but there are so many other factors to consider.
Let’s start with why the red for red rule is there. Red wines are, for the most part, bold in flavour, with layers of complexity. They can be paired with red meats, because of the meat’s bold flavour. Therefore, it stands to reason proteins with a milder taste would pair well with a less robust white.
No matter what your protein, if it’s served with any type of sauce, you match the wine to the sauce, not the protein. You may have delicious pasta with a rich tomato-based sauce that’s bursting with spices that could pair well with an earthy Pinot Noir. Tomato based pastas are high in acid and therefore need a wine to complement that level of acidity.
Should a dish like scallops in a creamy sauce be on the menu, then a white wine is the way to go as it can cut through the rich flavour while complementing the sauce. A crisp Pinot Grigio would be a superb choice, or a light Chardonnay.
With spicy foods, it’s best to find a wine that is low in alcohol or one that is sweeter to help relieve the burning one may get when diving into a delicious spicy curry.
Salty snack food, like nuts or pretzels, needs to be paired with an acidic or a fruity wine.
At the end of the meal, you want a wine that goes well with your dessert. Dark chocolate pairs well with a wine with low to no tannins. If your dessert is sweet, a dry wine won’t cut it. Sweet desserts can make a perfectly lovely dry wine taste more bitter than it really is.
When you’re not sure what foods pair well with your new favourite wine, ask the winery. The people behind the counter pouring you those delicious samples know more than you may think. Ask what they’d suggest and take it from there.
Finally, the best way to pair wine and food is to trust your tastebuds. Have a taste of your favourite wine. Now have something small that’s salty, sweet, acidic, rich, or spicy. Taste the wine again. Did it work? Does the wine still taste great? Does the food still taste great? If so—yay! You’ve found your latest food and wine pairing.