This thread is loaded with great advice. My points are very simple. "Go out and drink wine." Go to all the local wine stores near where you live. Find out if they have free tastings. As example, there are six(6) LWS within a five(5) mile radius of my house that have free tastings every Saturday. Go and taste. I use a very simple 4-point rating system; 3 = great, 2 = good, 1 = I don't think so, 0 = forget it. Not complicated. Make up your own. If you find a really good LWS then become a regular. You shop and they will remember you and take care of you. Next, every big winemaker has secondary labels, in example Concha Y Toro, that puts out Don Melchor, a big bottle of highly rated juice going for +/- $70. They also produce Casillero del Diablo, a secondary label that puts out a fantastic Carmenere (a type of red from Chile) for +/- $12. Try these affordable labels and taste for yourself. I have a plastic coffee container that I use to save corks. I put my rating on the cork and file it away. When I want to revisit I pull out the cork and take it with to go buy more wine. Next point is to read some magazines. I love Wine Spectator. They have a page called SAVVY Shopper. It has two(2) sections called "Smart Buys" and "Best Values". I have found some of my favorite bottles in this section.
Here are some brilliant ideas that I want to refresh for you:
boar_d_laze ~ "Something to remember in terms of pairing is that complicated food wants simple wines, and vice versa. Either the food or the wine is going to be the star, you don't want the other to be too demanding on the diner's palate."
Brilliant. A big giant Zin will wipe out a simple pork-chop sandwich but is my go-to pick for bbq ribs.
Now at the same time, this is genius:
tylerm713 ~ "Also take note that while there are basic "rules" when pairing wine, it again comes down to what you like. I, for one, would rather drink Pinot noir with fish than Chardonnay, which some would call a wine faux pas. But that's what I like."
* I do a great rainbow trout that I serve w/ PN.
When I was in school, a big-named chef once told me "Kid, when you make a big dinner for a big client, listen to everyone's comments, but, pay attention to the guy picking up the check."
Here are some great pairings that I have done. (I'm not saying to do any of these, I'm just giving examples.)
Lobster Capri Salad served w/ a crisp citrusy Torrontes (Argentina white, $8)
Cedar-Plank Rainbow Trout w/ a cherry-rich Pinot Noir ($14)
Chile-Spiced Skirt Steak Tacos w/ a spicy bright Malbec (Argentina red, $8)
Thai-style Buffalo Wings w/ a crisp dry white Riesling (California $9)
* Prime Rib-style "Rib Cap" (not Flannery's, but my own) w/ a rich buttery oaky Chardonnay (California $12)
It's all good. Go have fun learning. I hope I helped.