How to Master Pairing Up Food and Wine
Have you seen people who take a sip of the wine, pause for a while and eat it with the food on his plate? Then they try to pause for a while, like thinking whether what they did was right or wrong. These kind of people are those that are very conscious of how wine is paired up with the food on the plate. Serve them the wrong pair and they will show you a face of disgust. There are also those that do not give a damn about pairing food and wine. As long as they have one of the greatest wines on their hands, they feel that they are already a wine connoisseur, but apparently it is far from what reality has to teach them. But if being an average wine lover makes you think that you want to pair your food with the right wine, having the knowledge on the ways on how you can properly pair the wine with the food on your table will make your experience intensify, especially when you eat your food. If you are fond of eating sea bass, might as well pair it with Sauvignon Blanc. If you have duck breast for dinner, pair it up with Burgundy. For juicy steak, go for the all time classic Cabernet Sauvignon. But these are not the ones you are looking for, right? Such a short guide is not enough to make you feel satisfied with the pairing.
How It Works – Wine and Food Pairings
The flavors of the wine are gained from certain components such as alcohol, tannin, fruit, acid and sugar. Food also has its flavorful components, like bitter, sugar, salt and acid. The most successful pairings of wine and food feature the most complementary textures, richness, and components.
You either have the choice of pairing up similar components or go for the contrasting one. An example would be pairing up the creamy and rich sauce of pasta, would be best paired with the unoaked, dry and crisp white wine. You can also wrap up the wine’s flavor with the sauce’s richness by pairing it with ripe, soft Rousanne or Chardonnay blend.
But this is not going to end here. You will need to be brushed up with red wines and white wines to get a better understanding over every grape’s flavor that is included into the mix. Thus, as armed with the variety of knowledge about the grape, you will be able to follow the food elements below to create the perfect match with the wine.
The Six Elements
If you had a bite of cheese and paired it up with the best wine, then all goes the same with food. There are a couple of elements that will make both white and red wine pairings totally work. They are even derived from the food’s attributes and how they are mingling with the attributes of the wine. These elements are texture, bitterness, sweetness, salt, acid and fat.
Texture. When it comes to matching up textures, you need to think about the heavy and the light. The lighter foods are excellently paired up with light wines, while the heavy foods are best paired up with the heavy wines. Apparently, this is the safest way to follow when you pick up your food and wine together. If you wish to go on a more adventurous path, you can try experimenting with its contrast. This is by matching the lighter foods with heavier wines and do it in reverse. You will need a lot of patience for this one since it requires a lot of testing. This is to keep its tension more dynamic and also avoid the lighter flavors get overshadowed by the ones that have heavier textures.
Bitter. There is also the bitter flavors, right? You will find that in some cultures of the world, the bitter flavors are the ones that are highly prized. However it is the flavor that is mostly avoided. If there is anything more than what it has been perceived to be, it is more about being considered as totally unpleasant. When it comes to wine, the bitterness is the result of the extraction of unripe grapes or when they have failed to get the pips and stems out of the tank being used for fermenting the wine. There are also incidents wherein the barrels were not managed properly. However, the bitter flavor in wine is still sold all over the world. When this particular flavor meets up with food, it will act the opposite of what the sugar does. One element does not cancel the other. Both of them will simply combine.
Sweetness. Foods that are sugary and many other sweet desserts seem like they are very easy. All you need is to pull out any wine that you see in your wine cellar, and you are good to go. But because of this perception, there are those that have committed mistakes that they never dreamed of happening. Here is a rule that you should observe properly when pairing wine with sweet foods.
Have you noticed that there are certain foods that are too sweet and just mildly sweet? This is because there are certain degrees of the sweetness of every sweet food that you eat. There are a couple of recipes that only add a hint of sugar into it, like fruit sauce that is served together with pork loin. For this kind of food served on the table, wherein its light and fruity sweetness is what you will mostly get, it is best paired up with richly flavored white wines like the Chardonnay. The high alcohol content tends to provide that sense of sweetness, plus it also helps balance the sugar content within the sauce.
Don’t forget about the dessert, too. When it comes to this situation, you must be careful in which the wine is sweeter compared to the dessert that is going to be paired up with it. If you don’t do this, the dessert will just strip off the sweetness of the wine and will even render the whole taste to tart or bitter. Here is another case with chocolate and red wine – aren’t they always paired and combined in the wine industry? But it doesn’t mean any wine will do with it, too. It means that you will need to be careful about it, since there are a variety of chocolate flavors, too. If you have prepared the bitter and dark chocolate, pair it up with red wine that has some sweetness in it, like the Zinfandel. You will be amazed of its combination when you try it. But when it comes to a dessert made with sweet chocolate? Avoid pairing it with dry red wine. You will truly regret it.
Salt. The thought of salty food may make you think that you only have limited choices with the wine that you pick. Salt can make the oaky Chardonnay’s taste feel weird. It will strip off the fruity flavor completely off from the red wine and will even turn the high alcohol content in wines totally bitter. However, this is not the end. If you use your imagination right, you can able to come up with the most extraordinary combinations you have not tried out so far, like combining sweet wines and salty food.
When it comes to sparkling wines, though, it is the perfect combination with fried and salty foods. The yeasty and carbonation acids that are like what you find in beer will aid in cleaning up the salt away from the palate, while at the same time add up more interesting flavor and texture to it. Salt is the primary flavor for briny seafood choices like oysters. Acidic wine will help clean out its salt content and even balance if off with the oyster’s rich oceanic flavor.
Acid. For the acidic element in wine, it will add lift, freshness, and nerve to the food you eat with it. It can also be similarly done with food, like how you squeeze lemon on freshly served fish. When you are out looking for a wine that will go well with acidic fish, you need to make sure that the acidity you have perceived in the wine will at least be of equal level with that of the food. If not, the wine’s taste will get bland, not to mention it will be washed out.
Salads can be quite a challenge when pairing it up with wine, but you will be able to make it work out if you go for the moderate acid content with the dressing. This is by cutting back on the vinegar or lemon juice. Try to use some bitter, tangy greens and counterbalance it with Semillon or Sauvignon Blanc’s herbal flavors.
Fat. Lastly is the fat element, which is found in a lot of your favorite food choices, especially with dairy and meta-products as it has high-fat levels. Since wine does not contain a single ounce of fat, it is best to balance it with acid when you pair it up with wine. You can cut on the tannin or even match up the richness together with alcohol instead.
This is why you see prime cut steak are best paired with Cabernet-based wine. The fat and protein of the beef soften up the mouth-drying tannins of the wine. This will set up the tongue for the forest, berries, and fruity flavors that aid in complementing the meaty and smoky flavors of the meat.