How to choose a wine to match your food is an never ending discussion as we continue to search for the best strategy to deal with our ever increasing options. I was recently reading Olly Smith's The Complete Summer Wine Guide, and while I found it entertaining to read and very helpful in its specificity, after reading the question still lingered- if you're having fish with a citrus, for example, how do you choose between New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Sancerre, and Riesling? In the US and UK we have nowsuch a plethora of grapes, regions, and styles it can be paralyzing, even with expert advice.
In this sense living in Spain is a blessing, for although I can seek out imports, the wines usually sitting on my grocery or local wine shop's shelves are generally Spanish. With 77 Quality Wine regions, there are still a lot of options and a lot to explore, but choosing wine one country at a time has certain advantages. Most of the food I am eating is Spanish or at least Spanish influenced, not just in restaurants, but also at home as my local shops tend to dictate in large part what I eat by what's available. And my Spanish dinner usually goes pretty well with the Spanish wine I buy.
Back in the States though, if I was stuck between options I still tended to pair with a similar mindset, picking a wine that reflects the origin of the food whenever possible. Even if the dish isn't strictly from one place or another, the orientation of the ingredients is a great guide. When this system fails, for example, with sushi or ceviche, I turn to the type of place; since these foods are from the sea, I look for whites from regions by the ocean- something like a Albariño from Rias Biaxas or Vinho Verde. Beef, on the other hand, would call to mind regions that are famous for their cattle as well as wine, such as Argentine Malbec or a Brunello (from Tuscany, home of the Chianina, the beef used in bistecca alla fiorentina).
There's no perfect answer, but it helps to have a place to start. How do you pick your wine for dinner?