WINE PAIRING 101
When it comes to the sacred act of pairing food and wine, the most important thing that one needs to keep in mind is that wine changes the taste of food and vice versa. If you’re not careful, you can create undesirable reactions through the wrong pairings, but if you pair correctly, then the results can be magical!
Just like with all else, different people have different sensitivities when it comes to identifying aromas and flavors. Some may desire a strong reaction to tartness, whereas some may not. Always consider the preferences of the recipient of the wine service, combine that knowledge with the general rules to food and wine pairing and you’ll open yourself up to a world of bold new flavors.
When it comes to flavors and textures, it can be interesting to note how each one reacts to the other when it comes to food and wine pairings. Below we break down some of the most common food flavors to figure out the best vino to exemplify it.
High sugar content in your meal will make a wine taste more bitter and acidic and lose its fruity flavors. This is what experts call making wine taste harder. Select a wine with a higher level of sweetness than the dish so the flavors complement each other instead of fighting against each other
Umami or savory is another flavor to consider when talking about gourmet food. Think mushrooms or just taste some MSG to know what this flavor is all about. It’s an earthy flavor that is extremely difficult to pair with wine because of the varying salt levels different meals contain. High umami content without a high salt level makes the wine harder, so opting for a sweet or off-dry wine like Muscadet might just be the way to go.
In the matter of saltiness, the flavor lends wine more body whilst reducing the acidity levels, it’s pretty wine friendly to be honest. The classic one to remember is seafood in this instance. Go for a nice crisp white, a pristine Pinot Grigio perhaps. However, avoid pairing a great, big spicy shiraz from Australia with a beautiful, delicate piece of seabass -this will knock it for six!
The opposite to sweetness in every way, Acidity in food is another interesting flavor to work around when it comes to pairing. It takes away some of the wine’s acidity whilst increasing its fruitiness and body. You just need to get the balance right for this one. For highly acidic foods go for a wine with a highly acidic flavor, and vice versa. Try to match the weight of the meal with the weight of the wine too.
Even though spice levels and levels of heat tolerance are up for debate and have a tolerance threshold that is relative to the person consuming it, there still is a wine to exemplify a hot gourmet dish. A thing to remember in this regard is that the higher the alcohol content, the more intense the heat sensation becomes and vice versa. If you enjoy this, get a 15% red in. If you don’t then it’s just trial and error until you find the right alcohol content that matches your palate.
Foods that are naturally bitter tend to increase a wine’s bitterness quotient as well. Again, this does change from person to person. Tannins add to a wine’s bitter flavor and acidity making it drier and bite the gums. They are more commonly found in red wines and the odd white depending on what it has been aged in. As a general rule, the more textured or fatty the meal, the more tannin you need. Steak with a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Malbec is a good example here.