The pairing of wine and food is about creating delectable matches that will make each ingredient taste better. It’s about enhancing all their mouth-watering flavours and having a delightful experience with every bite and sip. It’s an art that can take your every meal to the next level.
There’s a wealth of options when it comes to mixing food and wine, which is why it may seem a bit overwhelming at first. That’s why we’ve created this guide to pairing wine and food like a pro. Read on to explore the simple guidelines that will help you create delicious pairings like a true sommelier.
Congruent vs Complementary Pairing
When pairing wine and food, you need to match a particular wine’s components with those of a dish you want to serve.
That doesn’t mean you have to create a congruent pairing that enhances shared flavour compounds. Sometimes, a complementary pairing that balances contrasting flavours is better for an out-of-this-world dining experience.
Any red wine is ideal for congruent pairings, as long as the food’s flavours don’t overwhelm it, thus making its taste bland. A sweet red wine with a sweet dish is one delicious example.
White wine, sparkling wine, vegan wine and rosé are perfect for complementary or contrasting pairings. For instance, you can pair a sweet white wine with a piquant dish to balance out the sweetness and spiciness.
Essential Factors for Pairing Wine and Food
When pairing wine and food, you need to consider a particular dish’s dominant flavour and texture. Then, pick out a wine that best corresponds to the dish, based on its body, flavour intensity, acidity, tannin content, and alcohol level.
Light-bodied wines go perfectly with lighter foods, while their full-bodied counterparts go better with heavier foods. It’s all about matching the wine’s weight (body and texture) to the dish’s weight. However, there are some exceptions. For instance, a heavy dish that doesn’t have a vibrant flavour would go ideally with a dry white wine, such as Chardonnay. On the other hand, a light-bodied red wine can taste magnificent when served with a delicate dish. The key here is not to have the wine overpower the dish, or the dish to drown out the wine.
You should always match the wine’s flavour intensity to the dish you’re serving. That way, the wine won’t overwhelm the food or vice versa.
For instance, if you plan on serving fish with lemon sauce, grab a wine with citrus notes, such as Pinot Gris. Matching a mild wine with a delicate dish or a rich wine with a rich dish works like a charm.
Besides acidic red wines like Pinot Noir, white, rosé and sparkling wines are also acidic and pair well with acidic foods, salty dishes, and rich, creamy sauces. That’s because the acidity can make some wines taste sweeter, bringing a sound balance to those dishes. It can also balance out acidic food and cut through the fatty nature of some foods.
For instance, a fresh vegetable salad with vinegar or a vinegar-based dressing would taste delicious with a glass of dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio. A high-acidity wine like young Riesling can be ideal with sharp, tangy, creamy sauces, as well as curries and other oily foods.
When pairing wine with desserts, make sure the wine is sweeter. Sugar enhances the acidity level, so you may not enjoy the sharp or even bitter taste of wine when eating a dessert.
Avoid red wines, as they have more tannins and will taste bitter with a sweet dessert while not enhancing its flavour. If you’re serving a light dessert, such as a cheese soufflé, go with a white wine like Chardonnay or sparkling white Champagne. If that soufflé has strawberries, a rosé will do the trick.
Sweet wines can taste heavenly with salty foods, too. For instance, Pinot Gris blends well with salty blue cheese, while Chardonnay can be excellent for semi-hard and hard cheese.
Bitter wines like Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon are the best options for fatty foods like red meat, as fat can ideally balance the bitterness. Don’t serve them with oily fish dishes though, because tannins will give them a metallic taste.
Don’t pair high-tannin wines with salty or spicy dishes either, as they could taste even saltier and spicier. They’re also not a good option for bland dishes, as their bitterness would be the most dominant flavour.
A high-alcohol wine makes food taste bolder. That’s why you should avoid such wines with spicy foods.
Alcohol changes your perception of spiciness, making spicy food taste even spicier. So, if you plan on serving a spicy dish, consider a low-alcohol wine with a dash of sweetness. A full-bodied zinfandel or cabernet sauvignon shouldn’t be among your choices. It is also worthwhile noting that some people may enjoy the intense spice, so a high alcohol and spicy pairing would be desirable.
If you pick a high-alcohol wine, be sure to eat a full plate of healthy food and drink in moderation.
Vegan Wine and Food Pairings
If you’re looking to pair vegan wine with food, consider sticking with dry white, sparkling, light red, medium red, and rosé.
For instance, dry white wines (e.g., Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio), sparkling wines (e.g., champagne and Prosecco), and rosé wines pair best with green veggies.
Light reds (e.g., Pinot Noir and Gamay), medium reds (e.g., Merlot and Zinfandel), and rosé wines go perfectly with roasted vegetables. Light reds are also great for nut-based vegan cheese sauces, curries, and mac and cheese.
Whatever you choose, make sure the wine label says “Unfined/Unfiltered“, indicating a natural ageing process. That means the production involved no fining agents that could contain animal products.
The pairing rules above aren’t set in stone. A key factor in food and wine pairing is indeed personal preferences. Suggestions for pairings are useful, but never disregard the person you are making the suggestion to. It’s all about satisfying yours, or their, unique taste, so get creative and find combinations that awaken your palate.