The best way to figure out what wines go with what foods is to take the same approach you take when planning a sit down dinner. For instance, dinner courses typically include a light appetizer, followed by a fresh salad, then a filing main course, and finally a rich dessert.
Your wine choice should follow the same progression that dinner courses have - light to dark. The more intense the flavor of the food, the more intense the wine should be to balance out the meal.
Since there is no wine and food pairings set in stone, evaluate each course separately and decide which wine you think would compliment each portion of your meal.
Generally, a meal starts with a light and delicate appetizer. Since this first course is designated to the get palate perked up, a lighter wine wine a crisp, somewhat dry flavor would go extremely well. As an example, consider a light brunch, where champagne is the perfect choice.
A white wine, such as a Riesling, will do well as the citrus flavors usually compliment most appetizers.
Let's assume that most salads served as a dinner course start with a bed of mixed greens. If that's the case, then it is normally wise to consider the type of dressing on the salad to determine the wine and food pairing.
Keeping in mind that the wine should match the food, you would not pair a Sauvignon Blanc with a creamy dressing like ranch or thousand island. The Sauvignon Blanc tilts more to the acidic side of the white wines, so a better match would be a Caesar or Greek style salad; one with a little bite in the dressing.
For the creamy salad dressing, err on the side of caution with a white zinfandel or something similar.
Much like the salad, a creamy dish should have a creamy wine while and acidic dish should take on the other end of the spectrum.
Take most meat dishes, for example, like beef or lamb. Since these meats are more of a fatty and flavorful dish, they pair well with big flavored wines such as the Cabernets and Red Zinfandels. Pasta dishes with creamy sauce are perfect for the Chardonnay like wines.
If there are any tendencies in wine pairing, it usually involves fish. More often than not, fish is served with a crisp white wine because of the way the dish is prepared. many fish dishes use some sort of citrus in the cooking process, so it is only natural to have a lighter wine to help accentuate the flavors in the dish.
Dessert is, without a doubt, the decadent portion of the meal. Typically, dessert time is the time to splurge on rich and creamy chocolates, and maybe sweet red strawberries. Since these flavors are so rich and deep, you would naturally want to pair them with rich and deep red wines, such as Port. Sipping on a strong red wine helps to balance out the richness of the dessert without masking any flavors of the dish.
Of course, there is no pairing that is forbidden, only recommendations. The generally accepted rule is to drink what you like. If you like white wine, by all means pair your favorite white wine with your favorite steak. if you prefer to sip a dark red wine, go ahead and have it with your salad. You're not breaking any laws.
Food and wine pairing is not a science, but instead a matter of taste. Enjoy sampling different wines with your friends and discover your own unique pairing favorites.