Food and wine are two of life’s great pleasures, making it easy to understand why there’s such a fuss over how to pair the two. For most of us, an in-depth study of the methodology of pairing food and wine is best left to the sommeliers of the world.
For those less familiar, wine pairing is finding harmony between the wine and the food, such that neither flavor set interrupts, or masks, the other. Rather, the flavors of the wine enhance that of the food and vice versa.
Wine Pairings 101 – What to Know
Understanding the basics of food and wine pairing, though, just might be appealing to many folks. Imagine, receiving a dinner invitation from a dear friend, bringing over the ideal bottle of wine, and contributing to everyone’s enjoyment! Or scouring Pinterest for a delicious fish recipe, and knowing exactly which wine varietal to pick up at the store. There are many reasons why having a wine pairing 101 crash crouse may come in handy. Without further ado, here are the basics:
Acidic Food is Best With Acidic Wine
Sometimes, opposites do not attract, and in the case with acidic wine and acidic food, the more acidity, the better! This is because high acid levels in wine, for example, will mask a low acidic food. To ensure the wine and the food are truly bringing out each other’s flavors, they need to be around similar acid levels. A great example is pasta with tomato sauce. For this dish, consider drinking Chianti, Sauvignon Blanc, or a Barolo.
Tannin Wine Pairs Better With Fatty Food
Tannins are the component of red wine that cause the bitter feeling and taste. All red wines have tannins, but some are much higher in tannins than others. To balance out the bitter taste and transform it into a softer, smoother taste, a fatty piece of meat will do the trick. Cook up a delicious, fatty piece of prime rib and sip on a robust Cabernet Sauvignon.
Pairing Fish and Wine
Nearly any wine drinker has likely heard that white wine goes with white meat, especially fish, and red wine for red meat. There is some truth to that, but the reasoning has nothing to do with color and everything to do with acid and tannin level. Fish can be a high acid food, and therefore is best enhanced with a high acid wine, of which many are whites. Red wines, as mentioned above, are often heavy in tannins, which typically don’t taste great with fish.
Consider the Dominant Flavor
It’s a fruitless endeavor to painstakingly pair wine to meat if the meat in question will be covered in a flavorful sauce. Rather than pairing the wine to the meat, in this case, match the wine to the sauce. The same rules apply; high acid sauce, high acid wine and low acid sauce, high tannin wine.
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Soften Spiciness With Sugar
Another consideration when it comes to pairing wine and food is the spiciness level of the food. Sipping on a tannin focused wine while eating a spicy dish will aggravate your palate. Instead, serve a mellow wine, even a sugar-heavy wine, with spicy foods. We know sweet wines are not always the most popular, but a well-crafted Riesling sipped on between bites of a spicy dish will bring delight to your palate.
Sweet Wine with Sweet Treats is Heavenly
There can be such thing as too sweet, but not in the case of wine and dessert. Try eating a rich slice of chocolate cake with a heavy tannin red. Yuck. Not the best flavor pairing. The same slice of cake will taste even more mouthwateringly delicious before, or after, a sip of sweet port.
Say you’re in the mood to cook a delicious meal and drink perfectly paired wine, with it. Where to being? To narrow down your options, we recommend considering the weather and the season. If it’s spring and there’s plenty of fresh produce to be had, then cook up something seasonal and choose the wine accordingly. If it’s a cold and rainy day, then a hearty meat dish or a comforting soup may be best, and the wine choice will follow.
If you’d like to skip doing any of the work yourself, then we recommend visiting us at The Essex, Vermont’s Culinary Resort & Spa where you can eat expertly crafted cuisine paired with expert-recommended wine. Or, if you are enjoying learning and wish to understand and practice more, then pop into one of our many cooking classes at the Cook Academy.