There are many varieties of wines to choose from, and finding the perfect food and wine combo can be complicated. Sommeliers and wine connoisseurs might offer basic guidelines, but at the end of the day, it’s your palate that gets to decide.
There aren’t any hard rules when it comes to wine pairings, and many will tell you to just enjoy the wine you like best or pair it with food that suits your taste.
Play around with a few wine varieties, try them with some foods, and pretty soon, you’ll find out what works for you. Experiment and learn. Sometimes, the best lessons are those you learn by yourself. Still, knowing a few basic do’s and don’ts couldn’t hurt; you could look at these guidelines to simplify what could prove to be a daunting task.
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Importance Of Pairing Food With Wine
There may not be rules, but there are some things to remember when you’re pairing wine and food. For example, one thing you should always strive for is balance. In wine and food, as in life, everything should be balanced.
At its core, food and wine pairings should enhance each other. The food’s flavor should be complemented, not overpowered, by the wine. Likewise, the wine’s taste should combine well with the food. When paired perfectly, the flavors and characteristics of the wine and food work as a counterpoint to each other. They should be partners, not rivals, for your palate.
A poorly executed pairing would ruin your gastronomic experience, whereas an exquisite pairing is an excellent way of showing respect and appreciation to the wine and the food. And if you have company, it could make dinner with you a memorable event.
To keep everything simple, keep in mind that generally, white wines pair well with fish, soup, and other light food; red wine, on the other hand, go well with red meat, strong cheese, and other heavy food. Also, having a pink wine can be quite versatile.
Do’s And Don’ts Of Food And Wine Pairings
As has been mentioned earlier, the important thing is what works for you. You can try this guide and see what suits your palate. Remember, a perfectly paired food and wine can turn a great meal into something sublime.
Here are a few do’s and don’ts of food and wine pairings:
Do: Choose What To Emphasize
When pairing food and wine, you should take into account the flavor intensity. You wouldn’t want the flavors to compete with each other. Pairing intense, clashing flavors of food and wine would be too confusing for your palate and would end up both diffused and overwhelming. Decide on what you’d like to emphasize in your meal or dinner—the wine or the food.
If the star of your meal is steak, then pair it with wine that’d enhance its characteristics. For example, Cabernet Sauvignon contains a high level of tannin, which makes it bitter with medium levels of acidity. The tannin and the acidity of the wine would cleanse your palate by cutting through the oil and fat, making the next bite as enjoyable as the first.
Don’t: Choose Wine Or Food That Overwhelms The Other
The goal is to pair wine and food complementing each other. Their relationship should make each other shine, not make the other be relegated to the back, unnoticed. What’s worse is if the pairing makes the other not only taste forgettable but also makes its flavor bad like pairing fish with red wine. This is because red wine contains high levels of iron, and this could ruin the taste of seafood.
If you’re eating delicate-tasting sushi paired with a robust red, chances are you wouldn’t enjoy the food. What you’d get is an overwhelming metallic, fishy taste in your mouth. Not all red wines, however, can have this effect; there are red wines you can pair with fish dishes. Some Pinot Noir varieties, for instance, can be paired successfully with fish and other kinds of seafood.
Do: Choose A Versatile Wine
Choose a wine that’s versatile and flexible enough to be paired with a wider variety of food. Red Burgundy, Riesling, Chianti, Pinot Noir, and rosé or pink wines are some of the wines flexible enough to pair with many types of food. These have high levels of acidity, which can make you crave a bite of whatever food that’s in front of you after a sip.
Finding the perfect food and wine combination can be a magical experience, but having a reliable, go-to wine that can adapt to different foods couldn’t hurt.
Don’t: Select A Wine You Don’t Like
If you read somewhere that such-and-such food is best paired with a particular wine and you happen to not like the recommendation, then skip it. The food should make you enjoy wine more, and vice versa. You don’t have to agree with others. You can ignore it and go with your taste. Do a little research and find a wine that suits your palate.
Do: Pair Salty Foods With Sweetish Wines
Salty foods are a perfect contrast to ‘sweet’ wines. Wines such as Port, Sauterne, Moscato, and Riesling are great with salty foods like Stilton cheese or an Asian dish with soy sauce. Potato chips, French fries, and pretzels become an indulgence when paired with sweet wines.
Don’t: Mix Spicy Food With High Alcohol Content Wine
Wines like Port, Madeira, Shiraz, and Zinfandels have high alcohol content, and they’re not the best partners for spicy foods. Generally, the higher the alcohol content, the spicier your food will taste. ‘Generally,’ because some people are okay with pairing high-alcohol wine with spicy foods.
However, wines that’d work best for spicy foods are the sweet ones. But if you want to know what’s best for spicy foods, experiment and find out for yourself. The experience can be extremely rewarding.
Food and wine pairings can be as simple as you want them to be. You can follow the recommendation of wine experts or you can experiment and find out for yourself which pairings are best for you. And while tastes can be subjective, there are still a few guidelines you could follow in finding the perfect food and wine pairings.
Understanding the basic principles of the interaction between wine and food can enhance your dining experience. Remember, balance is key.