After "white with fish, red with meat," the next most widespread rule of thumb for pairing wines is to choose wines from the same region from which the recipe derives: French wines for French dishes, and so forth. Unfortunately, this generalization becomes less helpful every year because it holds true only for the classic European wine regions and their traditional cuisines. Wine and food have become considerably less Eurocentric. Not only are there many popular foods from regions with no history of winemaking, from Asian cuisine to Southern comfort foods, but the most popular wines now come from "new world" regions whose foods reflect a hodgepodge of cultural influences. However, in the few places where this rule of thumb still applies, it can have stellar results; Italian wines and Italian foods provide some of the best examples. Italy's red wines, like this bone-dry, midweight Chianti Classico, are so food-oriented they can taste too harsh, tart, or thin when served alone. Their sour cherry and pomegranate flavors can seem too acidic and astringent on first sip. But all it takes is the salty richness of roasted meats or the herbal tang of a hearty tomato sauce to turn the weaknesses of these wines into assets. It is precisely their acidity, astringency, and dryness that are so flattering with classic Italian recipes.
Castello di Albola Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy, $13.99 (sale price through Dec. 31; regularly $16.99) PLCB Item #6508