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
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
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.