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Pairing Wines with Foods

A Few Hints to Start Your Matchmaking

Like a good marriage, wine and food were meant for each other. Each enhances and strengthens the experience of the whole. So why is it so daunting to try to pair foods with wines? Rumor has it that there are hefty laundry lists of rules and regulations that require strict adherence in order to obtain the perfect wine and food pairing.

Grab a pen and paper to write down rule #1.

Rule #1 states that there are NO rules when matching your favorite wines with your beloved recipes, sure there are hints and popular, even “famous” matches, but ultimately the best match is what pleases your palate. It is truly personal preference. That said, here are some hints to help you determine what might be palate pleasing for you personally.

Flavor Interactions First let’s consider flavor interactions.

You are only able to detect four distinct flavors with your tongue: sweet, sour, salty and bitter; while your nose is able to decipher over 200 different aromas. Between the combination of sensory uptakes from both your tongue and your mouth you are able to experience a vast array of flavor characteristics and nuances. As you begin to pair wines with foods, keep in mind that the flavors of the foods can both contradict and compliment wine selections, and both can be good. For example, a sweet Riesling can make a bag of salty chips taste even more appealing by contrasting the saltiness while yielding some of its intrinsic sweetness, or when paired with a rich dessert like cheesecake the sweetness of the wine would likely mellow in flavor due to the overriding influence of the cheesecake.  

Heavy vs. Light Next, consider whether a dish is “heavy” or “light” in nature, the difference between a meal consisting of steak and potatoes or one that tends toward a chicken and vegetable stir-fry. In general, most people seem to prefer heartier foods paired with fuller-bodied red wines and lighter fare to be complimented by more delicate white wines. Again, these are preference generalizations, a place to start and then experiment with your own combinations. Some tend to find it easier to remember red wines with red meats and white wines enhance white meats.

Other Factors to Consider Other factors to take into account when looking at pairing potentials is the foods acidity. Acidic foods, like a Greek salad or lemon-based sauce work well with wines that share an acidic undertone (Pinot Grigio for example). While foods that lean to the sweeter side, like a chicken apple salad, tend to pair well with wines that are just a bit drier than the food they are to compliment (for example an off-dry Riesling).

Whatever match you make with foods and wines, enjoy the adventure, and don’t get too caught up in the rumored regulations. Make a note of pairings you’ve enjoyed for future reference and keep mixing and matching to learn how each component offers influences, be they subtle or strong.

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