Wine and Food Pairing Basics: What Goes With What?

Wine and Food Pairing Basics: What Goes With What

Is this the right wine? That can be an intimidating question, if you don’t have much experience with wine pairings. The right combination of food and wine can be sublime. The wrong combination, decidedly not. This guide will give you the information you need to learn how to match food with its best partner wine. When you finish, you’ll also know how to analyze a new recipe, and match it with a great wine.

Some Basic Rules on Pairing Wine With Food

Food and wine pairing is all about balance. You have to consider the elements of the dish and the wine’s characteristics. Then, choose something that works harmoniously.

This is a topic that can be quite complex. Fortunately, there are some basic principles that are easy to understand.

  • Food should not be sweeter than the wine you serve.
  • Red wine generally goes best with intensely flavored red meat or game.
  • White wine generally goes best with milder meats such as fish or chicken.
  • If there is a sauce, match that with the wine instead of the meat.
  • As a general rule, red wines will be the better choice for congruent pairings.
  • As a general rule sparkling, rose, and white wines are more likely to be contrasting pairings.
  • The wine you serve should be as intense as the food you serve.
  • Fatty foods demand red wine.
  • The wine should be the most acidic element on the table.

What Are Congruent And Contrasting Pairings?

Some people assume that a contrasting pairing is a bad thing. That’s not so. With a contrasting pairing, you are balancing the flavors of the food with a wine that contrasts that. With a congruent pairing, the wine teams up with the food by boosting the existing flavor profile.

The Tastes You Will Find in Food

The science of taste is quite fascinating. It turns out that we taste more things than previously thought. However, with wine pairing you only need to worry about six of these; sweet, acid, fat, piquant, bitter, and salt. When you consider the food you are serving or eating, think about how those flavors are present.

The Tastes That Are Present in Wine

Wine isn’t fatty, spicy, or salty. Here, you will focus on acidity, bitter, and sweet.

Here’s how these elements generally present themselves in wines:

  • Sparkling, white, and rose are more acid.
  • Sweet or dessert wines are sweeter.
  • Red wines lean towards bitterness.

Identify The Basic Flavors in The Dish You Are Serving

There’s no need to micro-analyze the food you are serving. Keep it simple. Think about the tastes that really stand out. For example, a prime rib roast is going to have salt, and fat. An arugula salad with vinaigrette might be bitter and acidic.

What is Food Intensity?

You know what the basic tastes are. Intensity is about aggressiveness. How forward is that flavor? For example, a dessert plate with chocolate truffles and ice cream might be intensely sweet. A bowl of poached pears might be lightly sweet.

Wines Can be Intense as Well

Both red and white wines can be intense, or not. Cabernet Sauvignon is a full bodied wine with lots of tannin which leads to bitterness. A Pinot Noir is also a red wine, but it lacks the bitterness from tannins and is of lighter intensity. Chardonnay is full bodied with less acidity, while Sauvignon Blanc has more acidity but less body.

See Also

Choosing Wine Pairings With Creativity

Remember that the components of wine will generally balance the food you serve, or they will intensify that food. A very acidic wine will balance the intense fattiness of a pork roast. Conversely, you could try a wine with a slightly creamy element from malolactic fermentation like Viognier that will amplify that unctuousness.

Experimenting And Experience

Once you have the basics down, you can begin exploring the subtler flavors in food and wine. Use those to influence your pairings. Remember that not every combination is going to be a hit, and that’s fine.

Remember that simple experience is very important here. You have to try things. Talk to the sommelier when you go out to eat, and ask your wine monger questions. Visit wineries if you can, and learn as much as possible. Learn about wines growing in your region by visiting a winery. You can get information here on how that experience works. Finally, try things. You don’t have to invest in the most expensive wines or foods to learn.

Final Thoughts

Imagine eating at a fine dining restaurant, and picking a wine that makes a great meal amazing. Picture yourself serving great food at home, and curating a wine pairing that really blows people away. That’s something you can do. All you need is a few guidelines to follow, an understanding of flavors, and a willingness to try new things.

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