Wine and food pairing is endless fun. If you are reading this article, we believe you must have gained some knowledge about wines already. And now you want to take your knowledge to the next level by pairing your wine with the perfect food. Lets learns wine and food pairing basics.
Here comes the first rule, any wine and food pairing can never be absolutely wrong, it can be an experience though. However, with the ever-evolving wine culture and so many food and wine pairing experiments, there are a few fundamentals available for the most relishable wine and food pairing experiences.
When the situation arises for matching these two substances, ask yourself a question – Is it a “wine and food matching” or a “food and wine matching”? The difference is clear, are you matching your wine with the food (you have selected the wine you want to drink and looking for a good food match) or are you matching your food with the wine (you have selected the food you want to eat and looking for a good wine match)? There could be a third situation where you just want to go with a classic wine and food match that never go wrong.
Before we learn more, make sure to read wine and food pairing for Indian cuisine.
Once you are clear with the above question, you can always use these fundamentals to make a great choice of a complete meal.
Understand The Food
Food can offer the most complex flavors and tastes. With almost countless ingredients and cooking styles known to us, a dish can offer a variety of flavors depending upon the culinary art behind it. Thankfully when it comes to matching food with wine, all you need to understand is the dominant taste of that particular food. The dominant taste of a food can be one of these – sweet, salt, fat/creamy/umami, acid, spice, and sometimes bitter.
Remember, we are talking about the dominant taste which is different from flavors. An easy example, Vanilla ice cream has the flavor of vanilla but the dominant taste is sweet. Isn’t that really easy?
Now, if you are able to understand the dominant taste of your food, you are done with the fundamental 1. Really, you are one step closer to have a wise wine and food pairing.
Understand The Wine
Of course, the most important fundamental for good wine and food pairing is – know your wine. The wine offers some basic tastes and characteristics that need to be identified for a good food pairing.
A wine with a good acidic level will taste more refreshing, crisp, and tart on the palate. When you sip your wine and you feel a sudden hit of citrus-like flavor, that’s acidity. There are various reasons to add acidity to the wine, but that’s not the learning here. The point is if you feel like a vinegar sensation in your wine, it is acidic.
Generally, light-bodied red and white wines are more acidic than other wines as far as the wine body is concerned. White and Rosé wines are more acidic than the red wines if you consider the broad wine color categories.
It is not how “DRY” your mouth feels after a sip of your wine! It is how much sweetness you feel. Yes, the term “Dry” in the world of wines is the most misunderstood and confused one. Let’s make it simple once and for all. Dryness measure the sweetness of a wine. If the sweetness of wine increases, the dryness decreases.
If the wine is less sweet, the wine is considered more dry. Again, not covering the entire research about sweetness and dry wines, but you must know if your wine is dry, semi-dry, semi-sweet, or sweet to match good food with it.
Dry wine or the sweetness of a wine is not really dependent on any particular category of wine. A Red wine, White wine, or Rosé wine could fall anywhere on the range of sweetness. It depends upon the type of wine grapes and the winemaking method used.
Body of the wine is very comprehensive and a high-level term, but we will make it easy and clear for you. The prime factor that adds body to the is alcohol. However, it is not the only factor that contributes to a higher-bodied wine.
The body of a wine is judged by its mouthfeel. How the wine feels when you sip in. The texture, fullness, and weight of it. The wines with medium to full body have rich and complex flavors. These wine offer velvety structure and feels heavy in your mouth. These wines are more viscous due to high alcohol content and a little rough to drink compared to light-bodied wines.
Light-bodied wines offer a watery texture. It feels smooth, light, and easy to drink. These are less viscous due to low alcohol and are generally crisp. These wines are made with lesser fruit extract compared to full-bodied and that is why these wines feel light and lean.
This might be a tough one to judge, but yeah, let’s make it easy too. Tannins in wine give a tightening or contracting sensation on the back of the tongue. This property of wine is derived from the seeds, skins, and stems of grapes, hence red wines have more tannins than white wines. Tannins are one of the major components that add body, texture, and structure to a wine.
If you are not able to judge the pucker or shrinking power of wine, let’s understand it in another way. If your mouth feels dry (not the “DRY” term of wine that means bitter, this dry means de-hydrate), bitter and grippy on the tongue, it has good tannins. Remember the dryness in the mouth when you sip black tea or munch a walnut? it is the same. Tea has tannins too. Young and early age red wines have more tannins and it gets soft with time and age.
Understand Wine and Food Pairing Styles
This is the most fun and experiment worthy fundamental. There are two pairing styles when you talk about wine and food pairing basics. The first one is called Congruent Pairing. The other names of such pairing styles are parallel pairing, in-line pairing, or amplifying pairing. The second one is called Complementary Pairing which is also known as an opposite pairing, contrasting pairing, or balance pairing.
Wine And Food Congruent Pairing
When the food and wine offer the same types of flavors, components, dominant taste, and overall structure, it is called congruent pairing. This style of wine and food pairing amplifies the overall taste and experience of everything yet creating a balance and not overloading anything. You can use a variety of food photography ideas to capture mouth-watering photos of such pairings. Wines with a lasting finish and complex flavors are preferred for a congruent pairing.
Red wines offer bold structure and lasting taste, hence generally paired with complex and strong meats like red meat steaks with a heavy sauce. Such congruent combinations enhance the overall taste and finish. On the other hand, white wines are primarily light, crisp, and refreshing with acidic behaviors, hence generally paired with light meats like fish and grilled chicken. Wine and food pairings for vegetarians are not that tricky. Salads with vinegar-based dressing, light pizzas, and tropical fruits are good congruent pairing options.
Wine And Food Complementary Pairing
When the food and wine offer tastes that complement each other, balance, and sometimes cancel, it is called complementary pairing. This type of wine and food pairing gives us the liberty to relish contrasting flavors and tastes. This style of pairing provides broad exposure to taste buds and is great fun. Wines with a transient finish and simple flavors are preferred for a complementary pairing.
Acidic components in wine balance fats in food. White wines with good acidity can be paired with creamy and heavy sauce salads or pork meant to have a great complementary pairing. Spices and tangy flavors are balanced by the sweetness in the wine. Highly spiced Asia cousins go great with less dry red wines.
Bottom line is, there is no wrong pairing, it’s always fun and learning. Wine and food pairing has always been an experimental topic with some set of rules to understand the component being paired. No matter if you are a novice or a professional, there is always something new to explore with the ever-evolving world of culinary and wines. Just remember these basic fundamentals of food and wine pairing tips to know your food and wine, and keep exploring the new pairing options.