Anyone who has a love for wine has fantasized about opening their own winery complete with a tasting room. Or, maybe that’s just me. But, either way, as fun as it might be to imagine the luscious pairings of food and wine, it can be daunting. Even if it’s just for a dinner party and not your fantasy winery. However, wine pairing can be easily mastered with these tips.
Wine pairing: the elements
There are three basic elements to consider when thinking about food and wine pairing. These are structure, texture, and flavor.
When considering these elements you want the wine to either be similar to the structure, text, and flavor, or in contrast with it.
The way to think about texture when wine pairing is to consider if it’s a light wine or rich/dense wine.
Light wines pair well with light foods. Heavy wine with heavy foods. This is if you’re following the “similar” path. However, if you want to intrigue guests at a party or simply want to experiment for yourself. It might be fun to try a light wine with something heavy or vice versa. If you do go that route, you might want to match the food and wine another way, such as with similar structure.
Wine structure is referencing the acidity, bitterness, sweetness, or astringent aspect of the wine or food.
It’s easy to think, well, sweet wine and sweet food should go together, or acidic food and acidic wine.
But this is not always the case. A good rule of thumb is to think about the degree of sweetness, acidity, or bitterness. When you have a hint of sweetness in a meal, like a fruit sauce on your meat, a higher alcohol content such as Chardonnay is a good wine pairing. With desserts, you want your wine to be sweeter than the dessert. If not, the dessert will cause the wine to become tart.
Acid in wine lends itself to a fresh and lifted flavor. This is similar to putting fresh lemon on a piece of fish or have a burst of citrus in your vegetables. So, to pair a wine with food, you want to make sure they have equal acidity levels or the wine can be slightly more acidic. If not, the wine might become bland.
The flavor listed on a bottle of wine like, “notes of berry” or “nutty and earthy” help create pairings in connection with the fat of the food. You want the wine pairing to balance the fat of your meal. If you’re having a steak, something fruity and berry will cut well with the smoky and meaty flavors of the meat. Or a citric and fruity flavor might cut well with a lower fat food such as fish.
Another way to pair flavors is with the sauce of your dish. Remember to consider the similarities if you want something complementary, and to think of contrasting flavors if you want an intriguing wine with your meal.
Tips for pairing food and wine
- Consider similar or contrasting elements
- Light wine with light foods
- Heavy wine with heavy foods
- Know the degree of sweetness in your wine and food
- Acidity in wine should be equal to or more than the food
- High fat foods pair well with rich wines and flavors
You might not be opening up your own winery anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean that wine pairing has to remain a mystery. The best way (and most delicious) to improve your food and wine pairing is to experiment. And, don’t be afraid to go bold or dissent from the rules.