Real men drink red (with fish): Well, it's not always true, but it's catchy.
Another catchy writer, William Shakespeare, wrote in Othello: "Come, come, good wine is a good familiar creature if it be well used."
You know what I say? Good red wine is a good familiar creature if it doesn't blow away your taste buds, obliterate the flavor of the dish, is relatively low in alcohol and lets you pay your mortgage that month.
Just like with white wine, finding a red that fits my description of a good familiar creature is tricky.
Red wines by nature can overwhelm the flavor of many dishes simply because we really don't eat the kinds of food we used to. Ironically, as we now eat lighter and healthier, big reds are becoming more popular.And because red wines are bigger and badder than whites, the wrong red wine paring can be a spectacular train wreck in the mouth. For example, a big California Cabernet over a light Pinot Noir can completely change the texture and flavor of a meal.
An ideal pairing is one in which the food and wine realize their full potential simply because they are consumed together. Like the yin and yang of a lasting marriage, great wine pairings bring out the best in each other. You should be able to take a bite, drink a little wine, let the flavors meld and transform into a new, better flavor. That's what I call an ethereal pairing.
But don't get too caught up with the challenge of matching wines to food and the ensuing anxiety, because I have done the work for you. Think of a pairing as a good friend, someone you want to be around and have a laugh with. Here is a perfectly matched red wine -- a 2003 Pinot Noir from Maple Ridge Winery -- and an original fish recipe from Flavor, my James Beard Award-winning cookbook.