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Whether you are attempting to match a wine with a special meal or just want to learn the correct wine to drink with a meal, these tips will help. Most people today feel comfortable drinking the wines they enjoy without being bound by any strict codes. Even so the combinations that have evolved over the years continue to provide a very useful guideline.
Fish and light meats, such as chicken and veal, traditionally are accompanied by a dry white wine. Basically the more delicately flavored the fish or meat the lighter the wine can be. Because of this a light bodied red, like a Beaujolais, is also a good choice when serving light meats and fish. Red meats and dark meat birds such as duck are, in most cases, traditionally served with red wines. Red wines also work well with pasta dishes, hearty soups and any cheese course. To choose the best red wine for your meal remember that the richer the dish is the more full bodied the red wine should be.
Muscat, Barsac, Sauterne, late harvest Rieslings and other such sweet white wines are usually served as an accompaniment to desserts or by themselves. Never serve a sweet white wine with a chocolate dessert or you will have a conflict of flavors that can leave an unpleasant after taste. In some cases the food you are serving will not fit with any wine. Dishes such as curry, hot Szechuan dishes or other very spicy dishes tend to over power all but the most distinctive of wines. Foods that are heavy with salt or vinegar will also fit into this category. If you are serving different wines for each course of your meal the sequence in which you serve them is very important. Whites should always be served before red and young should be served before old. Dry wines should always be served before any sweet wine is served. Remember that traditionally you should move from lighter to richer, more complex wines as the meal progresses.
Pink and white wines should always be chilled when they are served while dry and medium dry sherries and light reds like Beaujolais or Gamay, need to be only slightly chilled. Any other red wine should be served at a temperature of 65 degrees fahrenheit to 68 degrees fahrenheit. Less mature red wines should be opened an hour or so before serving to improve their flavor. If you are serving an older red wine be sure to set the bottle up for several hours before serving so that the sediment can sink to the bottom. With older red wines it is always a good idea to pour them into a clean carafe for serving. Place a strong light or candle behind the bottle while you are doing this so you can see the sediment and stop pouring when it approaches the bottle neck.
Be sure you store your wines in a cool place before opening and make sure they are well away from any light, heat or vibrations. Ideally wines should be stored at between 55 degrees fahrenheit to 60 degrees fahrenheit but they can tolerate temperatures up to 70 degrees fahrenheit. As long as the temperature is consistent the wine will not be harmed. But, the higher the temperature the faster the wine will mature. Try to store the wines laying on their side so that their corks remain moist and fully expanded.