I’m back and this week, as requested, I’m writing about the basics of pairing wine with your meal.
Before I start, it’s important to remember that even though there will be people who say otherwise, tasting is not an exact science, there are basic rules to pairings but everyone is different and one person may perceive flavours or aromas differently to another. My perception of bitterness may be different to Conor’s, whereas he enjoys habaneros and a jalapeño is too much for me.
The aim of wine pairing is not to improve the flavour of either our wine or our food but to give balance and improve the dining experience. It’s also important to remember the food we eat has far more of an impact on the wine we drink than vice versa.
We all know that red meat goes with red wine and fish pairs with white wine but why is that? Here are some general rules to explain:
Acidic foods actually decrease our perception of acidity in wine, while increasing body and fruitiness. This makes for some care-free wine pairing because all we have to do is avoid wines with low acidity as they will feel flat.
From the easy to the difficult. Sweet foods can make wine seem bitter! As with dessert wines, your wine should ALWAYS be sweeter than the food with which it’s paired!
The flavour enhancer! Increases your perception of body and fruit, while making wine seem less bitter and acidic. The saltiness of red meat is one of the reasons that makes it a fantastic pairing for the big and bold.
Bitterness in food makes for a very difficult pairing. For one, it is very subjective so one person’s tolerable is another’s horrifying. The problem is that bitterness in food increases the perception of bitterness in wine. It’s often the case that the sum of it’s parts are greater than the whole.
Hot and Spicy:
Tread with caution! Not only does hot food make wine seem less rich, less soft and less fruity but it also makes it bitter and astringent. The pairing should, therefore, only be low alcohol and low tannin! Some sweetness and fruitiness also help.
We all know this one but a reminder can be helpful. In general, one should not overpower the other! There are some situations where this isn’t the case like a light and fruity white with a curry but for the most part the wine and food should have around the same intensity.
Umami flavours will emphasise tannin and alcohol while making a wine seem less fruity, and dryer. A pairing will have to have concentrated fruit and high acidity to stand a chance. As fish can be high in umami a white pairing is natural.
So, how do we navigate all of this without stress?
Follow the rules but don’t overthink it, use them as guidelines.
We all know some of the basics even if we forget it sometimes. How many times have you heard the phrase sweet and salty? Rules like that absolutely apply to wine pairing.
The number one rule is : if you enjoy the pairing you’re doing it right!
In fact, a personal favourite is dessert wine and blue cheese
It can be a great idea is to stay local. Foods and wines from the same place tend to work very well together. The reason is as simple as trial and error. Over generations, the locals have tried different things so you don’t have to!
Or you could just stick to white wine with fish and red wine with red meat.
Kind regards and drink up