Food & Wine pairing is really a very personal thing and my rule of thumb is to drink what you like and eat what you like. If red wine gives you a headache don’t forgo a nice steak because white wine is not supposed to go with it; there are plenty of white wines that can pair with a steak.
Secondly, match the dominant flavour of the dish with the wine or in reverse. Let’s face it most of us don’t just grill a steak. We grill it an add seasoning like salt and pepper or a big ass sauce like bernaise.
Lastly match the weight of the meal with the weight of the wine. If you are having a big rich meal have a big rich wine. Same goes for lighter meals; use lighter wines. The great news is that there are big rich whites and reds, there are also delicate and light whites and reds.
Anyway I took at look at the various Food & Wine Pairing sites/tools on the web and here is what I found in order of SEO. I did so because once you have found a good one, you really don’t need two or three.
1) Natalie McLean Matcher (http://www.nataliemaclean.com/matcher/)
This is a widget that she would like people like us to place on their website, but on the left hand side there is the matcher. Pretty easy to use and in pretty good detail as it drills down the type of dish you are having and makes suggestions of wine types and not specific wines. For example if you click on Veal you are then asked to choose a specific veal dish. This is great unless the Veal dish that you are having is not on the list.
2) The Wine Spectator (http://www.winespectator.com/foodwinematching/search)
The Wine Spectator is probably the largest wine periodical in the world (the people at The Decanter might take issue with me but there your have it), certainly in North America. It is a very commercial site and what I mean by that is that you have to drill down a few levels to find the pairing function as it is a service they provide free of charge (the link above will take you there directly).
The tool is pretty decent, simple to use and has more specific dishes available for pairing, however it will spit out a type of wine vs a specific wine, and is not very useful if your dish of choice is not on the list.
3) Food And Wine Pairing (http://www.foodandwinepairing.org/)
This is clearly an independent sight as there is zero commercialism and gets straight to the point. Very simple to use and speaks more to food styles/types than specific dishes. It is easy on the eyes and, unlike the other sites, tells a bit about why the wine would worth with the food and vice versa, which I think is really important.
4) Food & Wine Magazine (http://www.foodandwine.com/snooth-how-this-works)
Food & Wine Magazine is a great read if you are a foodie and love a great glass of wine. Conversely it is a great read if you are a Cork Dork and love a great meal. With that in mind I expected more and easier access to the pairing tool. They have paired with Snooth which is an online wine retailer and reviewer of wine in the hopes that you might just buy the wine (only in specific states in the US) that they suggest for the meal. To access the tool you need to register and you know what that means – constant e-mails and notifications about this deal or that.
The tool it self is slick and provides a bunch of information about the wine. Remember that the site is written for foodies and hence they expect a lot of detail on the meal you are looking to pair.
5) Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wine_and_food_matching)
Although this is not a direct pairing tool, it is high on the Google search list and I can understand why. It is a treasure trove of detailed information about the history of pairing and the basics (flavours, alcohol and weights). Once you have digested the information you will armed with what is necessary to make a pairing no matter where you are. It’s kind of like the adage “give a person a fish and you feed them for a day; teach them to fish and you feed them for life.”
Lastly, on a personal note, there is a pretty cool app for iPhones called the Wine Guru. It is great assistance when you are in a restaurant and have a menu item in front of you. Once you plug in the details of the dish, it will suggest a wine to match. After that it is as simple as looking at the wine list and making a choice. By the way, the app was created in Vancouver.
Let me know if this helps by leaving a comment, or if you want more details send me a note and I will get back to you.