Updated: Jan 9
One of the things I’ve noticed about really engaging reviews is that they often include descriptions of foods paired with the wines. It makes sense, wine and food go together. It’s a natural combination and if paired well, a combination that can greatly enhance your enjoyment of both.
In this final Flight, we’ll look at some wine pairing hacks that will help you both pair wine and food, and select wines that will complement your meals. The best place to start is with the basics.
Friend or foe?
We described the character of a wine in prior posts using basic tastes: fruit, acid, tannin and alcohol. Well, those wine characteristics match up, or sometimes don’t match up with the basic tastes in food: sweet, salt, acid, bitter, umami, fat, piquant. We do taste more things in food like fizziness, soapiness, but for our hacks these 6 are key. Wine interacts with these food elements in ways that are sometimes good, and sometimes not so good.
The basic rule of thumb is that sweet and umami are wine enemies and salt and acid are wine friends. Sweetness and/or umami in food makes the fruit in wine seem less sweet and the wine more drying, bitter and acidic. Conversely salt and acid in foods are wine friendly, making wine seem more fruity, less drying and acidic.
Aside from considering the components of food and wine pairing there are a couple stylistic hacks that can come in handy when you are pairing wines with meals. The most basic is to match the intensity of the wine with the intensity of the food. The stronger a characteristic of the food is, the more intense the wine needs to be. In addition, there are three basic approaches to wine pair that are good to remember:
This style of pairing looks for aroma of flavors in both the food and the wine that join together to magnify the impression and the enjoyment. For example, the smokey nuances of Syrah with smokey BBQ meats. Or a creamy mac and cheese with a creamy Viognier or Chardonnay.
Contrasting pairing In this style of pairing you put together contrasting elements that produce a balanced effect, or a completion in the taste. A favorite example is Sparkling wine with fried chicken. The crisp acidity contrasts the fatty fried food, but makes a delicious statement together. Or a spicy Thai curry with a cold riesling, which allows the sweetness to tone down the chili heat and cleanse the palate.
What grows together, goes together This pairing style doesn’t seem to be based in food science, but it works. The idea is pair foods and wines from the same place together. Perhaps, generations of cooks and wine lovers have already figured out what works for us. Examples include Chianti or Brunello with rustic Tuscan pasta dishes often featuring rich tomato sauces with savory meats and game. Or fresh salty Atlantic oysters from northern Spain with crisp, cold Albarino.
Hopefully, what you’ve seen here is that we have a world of foods and a world of wines to explore. So be bold and experiment, using these hacks as tools to chart your journey. Check out the blog for more random wine musings.