An old joke has it that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who agree that there are two kinds of people (Oscars and Felixes, say) and those who don't. But if you've ever had to order wine for friends split along red-white lines, you know the quip is at least partially true. Still, there are ways to bridge the enological divide, says Alpana Singh, master sommelier and wine-and-spirits director for Lettuce Entertain You, a restaurant group based in Chicago.
In fact, she says, a few types of wine can please nearly every palate and complement most any entrée, whether your dining companions are ordering rib-eye steak or poached salmon. These include Pinot Noir and Sangiovese among the reds and Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris among the whites.
Pinot Noir and Sangiovese work with most foods because they're lighter-bodied than other reds and not so rich in tannins. "Tannins leave a dry, fuzzy feeling on your tongue―like when you bite the skin off a grape," says Singh. These reds don't have that chewiness, she says. They are delicate and can go with steak, fish, grilled chicken, or vegetarian dishes.
By the same token, says Singh, "Pinot Gris has an element of fruitiness, so it goes well with spicy and salty food. Sauvignon Blanc has acidity, so it's nice with dishes that contain vinegar, like salads. It can also accompany deep-fried foods because it contrasts with the oiliness, just like lemon juice."
Remember that the next time you find yourself at a table full of odd couples.