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Though it seems everyone has heard the old rule about not pairing red meats with white wines and vice versa, there is another well-considered side to this story. While it’s true that lighter dishes such as Sole Meuniere should be accompanied by more delicate wines, and robust cabernets pair better with heartier meals, the meat alone should not be the deciding factor in every wine pairing decision. Read on for more information on how to alter these time-worn guidelines and achieve the perfect marriage of flavors with every meal.

1. Use flavor as a guide
According to Honest Cooking, it doesn’t matter if the meat is red, white, or something in between. The question is, which ingredients could use a boost in order to really shine?

If the main course is filet mignon topped with béarnaise, consider an acidic wine such as Sauvignon Blanc to bring out the tarragon notes in the sauce. Conversely, for a rib-sticking chicken cacciatore, try an acidic red such as Chianti Classico.

2. It’s all about balance
It’s important for chefs to remember which wines contain what flavor elements. For example, since tannins leave a bitter aftertaste, wines with high tannin profiles should be paired with buttery, fatty meats such as salmon or ribeye. On the other hand, lighter fish such as haddock — a natural partner for citrus — goes well with acidic wines.

A good rule of thumb: For more robust meals, allow the flavors to shine by choosing a lower-profile wine. If the main course needs a boost, opt for something more energetic to amplify the taste.

3. Consider the sides
Though the goal is to make sure the wine complements every aspect of the main course, the meat is not the only thing on the table. Keep in mind this list of notorious wine killers:
Asparagus – This elegant favorite contains a sulfur compound that makes other tastes seem metallic.
Artichokes – Conversely, the Cynarin compound found in artichokes will make wines taste overly sweet.
Vinegar – For salad dressings and vinaigrette accompaniments, go easy on the vinegar, which is a noted palate-destroyer.

Refer to these guidelines in a pinch, but never stop seeking out new combinations. When it comes to pairing meat and wine, one can never know too much.