It is sweet or dry?

It is sweet or dry?

It's one of the first questions diners ask when it comes to picking the right wine to pair with their meal, says Scott Irish, general manager of Cork Wine and Dine in Gahanna. But it isn't the only aspect of a wine you should consider when making the right selection to accent your meal. Some wines are bold with lots of structure. Others are light and delicate.

"You should ask what wines pair specifically with a dish," he says. "Wine should complement the food. It should be a symbiotic relationship, where it enhances not just the flavor of the food, but the flavor of the wine."

That means looking for similarities between the dish you are ordering and the description of the wine. If it's a heavy, cream-based dish, like Cork's garlicky Fusilli ($13) with asiago cheese and prosciutto, you'll want to match it with an equally big wine, Irish says. Think a strong chardonnay on the white side or a medium-bodied malbec if red is your thing.

"You should drink what you like, above anything else," Irish says. "Wine is so personal. If we all liked the same thing, we'd have two bottles of wine on the shelves."

Opened in October, Cork is the latest concept from the owners of The Wine Bistro-a relationship immediately apparent upon walking into this strip mall restaurant with a similar warm color scheme and a wall of 150 pick-your-own wine bottles. At 1,200 square feet, it's a slimmed-down version of The Wine Bistro (locations are typically 4,000 to 5,000 square feet) with 35 seats and a small bar. The menu here is organized in similar categories, too, with small plates, big plates, flatbreads and sandwiches. While a few dishes overlap between the two concepts, most of the Italian-American offerings here are unique to Cork, Irish says.

And unlike The Wine Bistro, diners at Cork can create their own wine flights for $10-selecting three wines from the by-the-glass list of nine whites and nine reds that changes about every three months. It's not just a way to taste a few wines before investing in a glass or bottle, Irish says-it also allows diners to pair multiple styles of wines with different courses.

Irish hopes to soon offer wine tastings on Saturday afternoons with five wines paired with five small plates for $25.

Dish: Braised Veal Meatball Trio ($10) with marinara, mozzarella, provolone and fresh basil

Pairing: Educated Guess Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($13/glass, $40/bottle). "The cabernet is big, bold and spicy. The veal meatballs are hearty and zesty. They just complement each other so well," Irish says.

In the mood for a bottle? Try the Mauro Molino Barolo, Piedmont, Italy ($67/bottle). "A lot of times, it's good to pair wine and food that grew up together---so an Italian wine with Italian food. The Barolo is bold and stands up great to the meatball."

Dish: Grilled Prosciutto Wrapped Shrimp ($12) with Tuscan spices, grape tomato relish and parmesan polenta

Pairing: Navarro Vineyards Chardonnay, Mendocino ($13/glass, $40/bottle). "The rule is, mild food you can pair with more mild wines," Irish says. "Even bolder food you can pair with even bolder wines. The shrimp's got some spice. The Navarro has spice, structure. It's a little fruity, rich and oaky."

In the mood for a bottle? Reach for the White Oak Winery Chardonnay from the Russian River Valley ($40/bottle). "It's very similar to the Navarro-rich, creamy and oaky. When we do the next pour list, this might go on it."

Dish: Mozzarella Fresco Flatbread ($11) with roasted garlic cream, fresh mozzarella, seasonal tomatoes, basil and saba

Pairing: Fantinel Pinot Grigio, Friuli, Italy ($10/glass, $35/bottle). "It's a light dish, so it needs a lighter, refreshing wine. The pinot grigio has mango and citrus notes," Irish says.

In the mood for a bottle? Grab the Hooked! Riesling from Nahe, Germany ($28/bottle). "It's light-bodied and fruity."