In 2012, I will have a house pour I love.
Push away the thought that every dish has a single, dead-on wine match and that it's your job to discover it. The theory of the Ideal Pairing may hold in certain restaurant environments (we're frankly dubious it exists even there) but it's surely inappropriate in our homes on all but the rarest of occasions.
Why? First because (thank heaven) your home is not a restaurant. Your kitchen doesn't offer an extensive menu of dishes that's always changing. Even assuming that your household includes one or more very capable and enthusiastic cooks, chances are the meals turned out on a regular weeknight basis comprise a very limited repertoire - the family faves -- with substantive changes occurring only as the seasons transition.
Second, balanced wines of moderate scale with normative flavor profiles are more versatile things than you have been led to believe, quite capable of accompanying a range of dishes, even those involving ethnically distinctive ingredients and techniques.
Third, there's a very long tradition in wine-producing communities of people drinking nothing but the local wine (whatever it may be) in their neighborhood bars and restos - and certainly in their homes -- with very little variation year 'round. You could argue that in such places cuisines tend to be tradition-bound and therefore more or less static, but even hyperlocal cuisines are rich in the variety ingredients and dishes they can call on. A small number of wines serve perfectly well in these conditions, have done so for generations, and will do the same for you if given the chance.
The trick - if there is one - is simply to make good choices among wines that have what it takes to be viable house pours. What you're looking for are shapely, balanced wines of moderate body, reasonable alcohol (no more than 13.5% ABV) and enough acidity to offer a pleasing counterpoint to what's on the plate. Above all, find something you're genuinely taken with. Your house pour should be a wine you love.
Shun wines with out-sized features that have initial charm but quickly become tiresome (no to the New Zealand sauvignon blanc; yes to the Macon Villages). Run from national brands; pursue independent producers and quality-oriented co-ops. Of course, they should be priced to allow each adult to enjoy a half bottle or so a night without straining the budget, whatever it is. Once you've landed on a red and a white that fill the bill, stick with them until a new season shifts the direction of your cooking, and only then look for a change.
And if at some point you feel the need for variation and a a fancier sip - and you will - well, that's what weekends were made for.
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ContributorsSheryl Julian, the Globe's Food Editor, writes regularly for the Food section.
Devra First is the Globe's food reporter and restaurant critic. Her reviews appear weekly in the Food section.
Ellen Bhang reviews Cheap Eats restaurants for the Globe and writes about wine.