If you’re a wine newbie, you probably dine without thinking about the fundamentals of pairing wine and food. But did you know that the right combination can improve your dining experience? Often, in high-end restaurants, a wine steward (sommelier) will recommend the perfect pairing. You’ve probably heard that white wine goes well with fish and chicken (white meat), while red wine should be paired with steak (red meat).
Wine and food pairing is so much more than that. The textures and flavors in the food and wine should have the right combination for an enjoyable experience. The wine should enrich the food and not overpower it. Here are some tips to consider when combining the two:
The wine should be more or equally acidic to the food. If the food is more acidic, the combination will thin out the wine, making it taste flat. If both the wine and food are acidic, rather than thin out the wine, this combination will reduce the acidic taste in both, making your meal pleasurable. Acidic food like oysters and shrimps pair well with an Albarino or Muscadet.
Tannins and Fat
Tannic (bitter-tasting) wines pair perfectly with fatty dishes. A tannic wine tastes much like tea with an over-steeped tea bag, leaving a bitter aftertaste. Proteins and food with a considerable amount of fat soften the tannic taste. Sweet or spicy dishes will highlight the dryness and sour taste of the wine. Cabernet Sauvignon is a tannic wine that tends to overpower most meals, but cheeses and meat make a perfect combination.
If you like red sweet or white sweet wine, make sure that it’s sweeter than the dish you’re pairing it with. Wines like Sauternes or Riesling paired with a fruit cake will give the wine a harsh taste and the cake a bad one. However, combining these wine varieties with a salty dish like mac and cheese will reduce the saltiness and intensify the quality of the meal.
These elements should match in both the wine and the dish for a flavourful combination. It ensures that the flavor of the wine is not overwhelmed by the meal. A rich wine like Chardonnay balances perfectly with a rich dish like scallop chowder or chicken curry. Similarly, light wine like Pinot Grigio makes an excellent combination with a simple seafood salad.
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Now that you have an idea of how to pair your wine and food, the next time you’re at an event or out for dinner, you’ll know what to do. That said, these guidelines are not set in stone although they improve your dining experience. Each person has their unique tastes and preferences. What may be unacceptable pairing for some tasters may not be enjoyable for others.