If you are not strict or particular about your meals, you can easily pair any kind of food with your wine. However, if you want to make the most out of your wine drinking experience, there are time-tested guidelines that you must consider to plan out your meals thoroughly and more wisely.
If you already have a planned meal in mind, all you need to do is pick the right wine that would go perfectly with it. If you are new to this, there are six tips below that can help you get started on the right note.
Look For Balance
Consider the richness, body, or weight of both the wine and food. The dish and wine must not overwhelm one another and should be equally balanced as much as possible. This is the key to a lot of classic food and wine matches.
To put this rule simply, hearty food also needs a hearty wine. For instance, Cabernet Sauvignon is ideal with grilled lamb chops since they’re equally vigorous. On the other hand, a light Soave wine may wash down a subtly flavored poached fish since they’re equal in terms of taste and delicacy.
In food, you can determine weight by fat and estimate it according to the ingredients and cooking methods used for its preparation. For the wine, you’ll get clues from the color, alcohol level, and Grape variety. Wines that contain less than 12% alcohol are lighter-bodied, while the ones with more than 14% are heavier.
Try Breaking The Rules
You may think that white wine is for white meat and fish, while red meat is perfect for red wine, right? Well, this is not always the case. Although for many years, traditional foodies have been following and teaching this rule. The idea is that the wine color should also match the food. However, this is not a one-way rule.
You can always experiment with different types of food that can go with certain wine varietals. For example, Salmon (with its fattiness) could be best paired with a light, red wine. The secret is to ensure that the weight and intensity of the wine match the dish. Their colors don’t really have to match, except if you really want your meals to be color-coordinated.
Master The Pairing Methods
There are different ways to approach food and wine pairings, but they can all be summed up in two categories:
Incongruent pairing, the wine, and food of choice share several flavors or compounds. It can be a sweet wine paired with another sweet dish, like a red wine paired with a buttery dish. The most important rule to remember incongruent pairings is that the wine should not be overwhelmed by the food’s flavors. If that happens, it could make the wine taste bland.
One of the best things about congruent pairings is that it enables both food and wine to improve the flavors of each other. Red wine is great when you want to create a congruent pairing. With flavors and aromas ranging from smoky to cherry, red wines are quite easy to match. For example, a glass of full-bodied red wine has a similar flavor profile to that of grilled meat, making it a good congruent pairing.
Complimentary pairings, on the contrary, are based on wine and food combinations that don’t share flavors or compounds but complement one another instead. The flavors in each are balanced by their contrasting elements, making them an interesting food and wine combo.
Sparkling, white, and rosé wine are best for contrasting pairings. A sweet white wine, paired with a spicy dish, helps cool down the intensity of the meal. A white wine with a salty dish is another example of a complimentary wine pairing.
Mind The Acidity
The components of wine are generally well-balanced, but this balance can be affected depending on the food you pair it with. The elements in a dish may diminish or accentuate the sweetness and acidity of wine as well as the bitterness of the wine’s tannins.
Ingredients with high levels of acidity, like vinegar or lemon, work great for high-acid wines by making them feel rounder and softer in comparison. On the contrary, tart food may turn balanced wines flabbier.
In addition, tannins interact with spicy, fats, and salty flavors. Fatty, rich dishes like steak reduce the perception of tannins, which makes a robust wine like a Cabernet feel smoother. However, salty foods increase the perception of tannins and could make red wine seem astringent and harsh.
Salt also accentuates the heat of wine with high alcohol content. Spicy flavors, on the other hand, tend to react badly with high alcohol and tannins, which make the wines feel hotter. Consequently, such a pairing is not highly enjoyable.
Consider The Age
An aged wine presents a different set of flavors and textures. As a wine matures, the tannins soften and the wine becomes more delicate. Fresh and fruity flavors may give way to savory and earthy notes as wines take on more secondary and complex characteristics. When choosing a dish for older wines, you can tone down the big flavors and richness for a simpler fare to make the wine’s nuances shine through. For instance, instead of a spicy grilled steak with an old Cabernet, you can try a braised lamb instead.
Look For Flavor Links
This is how pairings can be fun. The wine’s aromatics could remind you of certain foods such as spices, butter, herbs, and fruits. You can make a good match by including ingredients in a dish that emphasize or echo these flavors and aromas. For example, with a Cabernet, the currants in a dish can bring out the characteristic dark fruit flavors of the wine while a sage could highlight the herbal or earthy notes.
As a beginner, you should start with these basic guidelines to help you match the right wine to the right kind of food. As you eventually master and discover your style, you can take it up a notch and experiment with more adventurous flavors and pairings. Through trial and error, you will know which varietals and blends can work and taste best for you and your loved ones. Drinking wine that’s paired with the best meal is truly a unique foodie experience to remember!