It is no secret that good wine is best enjoyed with good company or great food. And in the best case scenario, both! Finding good company can be as easy as shouting to your neighbor from your front porch, but creating a successful wine & food pairing can be quite the balancing act. Between fat, acid, salty and sweet, it would seem to take an expert to match the glass with the dish. But with these simple rules of flavor-matching, you will be able to construct a delicious food and wine pairing confidently, taking your meal to the next level.
1. Acid + Acid Consider the acid levels of the food when selecting the wine. Wine should be equal to, or higher in acid than the dish. If the wine has less acidity than the food, the wine will taste flat. To achieve this harmony with an acidic dish such as tomato sauce, try serving a Barbera or a red wine from Southern Italy. Accordingly, acidity in the wine is also an important consideration for matching with very rich dishes. Fatty meats (Pork and Riesling are a natural!) or foods with decadently rich sauces demand a with a higher acid content.
2. Sugar + Heat Serving a super spicy dish with a high alcohol, tannin heavy wine will set your guests on fire, but cutting the heat from any southern dish is definitely not an option! Spicy food requires a cool drink, and so a delicate white or a soft red will work; think a Riesling or a Beaujolais. And for really spicy dishes there’s always beer (helloooo…crawfish boil!)
3. Bitter + Fat The astringent component that gives red wine it’s structure (a.k.a tannins) needs fat for balance. Fat softens the tannins and brings a smoother taste and feel, allowing for the perfect glass to match your delicious steak (see Acid+Acid). For a fattier cut of meat like pork, try bold Riesling, but if you are having a leaner cut, go with a lower tannin content wine like a Syrah.
4. Sugar + Sugar As a general rule, make sure that the wine is sweeter than the food and you will have a successful wine pairing. If not, the wine will tend to taste bitter and tart. When it comes to desserts, too much sugar can be overkill, so don’t be afraid to try a Savory + Sweet combination that is so eloquently expressed with a fine dessert wine with a cheese plate. Or stick with a good cup of coffee!
Pairing wine with food brings out the best of both, making for more dynamic flavors and experiences, but remember there are no hard rules when it comes to wine. Drink what you want, when you want, and the more you experiment, the better you’ll get! Cheers.
Still in doubt? Follow these basic rules of thumb:
1. Match the Wine Country to the Cuisine. There is a natural, organic relationship between the food traditions of a particular region and the beverages drunk there. An Italian meal calls for an Italian wine. 2. Choose similar weights & textures. A delicate dish should be matched with a subtle wine and a hearty meal with a sturdier wine. 3. Pair with the sauce. If there isn’t a sauce, pair with meat. Think about the dominant flavors of the dish, whatever they happen to be, and choose a wine you think will complement them.