It can be easy to become overwhelmed when considering food and wine pairings; suddenly, you’re thrust into a new world of dryness, body, acidity and smell. There are many things to consider, and you may feel confused by the endless options.
However, choosing the perfect wine for your dish can elevate an ordinary meal into a culinary experience. Here are some simple tips and tricks to find the perfect wine to serve and delight your guests:
Know your terms
Knowing some essential terms can help you significantly when searching for the perfect bottle. Balancing flavours is key in wine pairing, so getting the right combination of the terms alongside your dish will elevate your meal.
Acidity – How tart and bitter a wine tastes.
Body – A wine’s flavour profile. Don’t be put off by the fancy wording; flavour profile is similar to strength. For example, a full-bodied wine will have a stronger flavour and a more noticeable after taste.
Dryness – On a level of sweet to dry, most wines will have a rating on their bottle indicating how sweet they are.
Tannin – A chemical compound found in seeds and grapes. As wine ages, it is released and contributes to a bitter taste.
Once you’ve learned the key wine terms, the next step is to understand the pairing types. Wine and food are very similar in many ways, consider richness, for example. If the meat in your dish is very rich, a lighter sauce provides a nice contrasting flavour. Or perhaps consider sweetness; if you’re serving a sweet cake, you’d typically decorate the cake with sweet icing.
These two examples are known as Complementary and Congruent pairings.
A complementary pairing is when food and wine do not share flavour, body or strength. Complementary pairings can be used when you’d like to provide a flavour contrast, but still complement flavours. For example, a spicy dish pairs well with a sweet, fruity wine as the two balance each other out.
A congruent pairing is when wine and food share flavour or other compounds. Pairings such as this enhance the flavour of one another and provide stronger tastes. For example, suppose you’re enjoying rich steak. In that case, a smooth, fruitful red wine reminiscent of cherry or raspberry will perfectly enhance the food’s flavour profile and the wine itself.
Overall, there are a few tips and tricks that you’ll be on your way to becoming a wine connoisseur once you learn. The common phrase, white wines with chicken and seafood and red with red meats, is a slight oversimplification, but it provides a general direction.
Generally, lighter wines do pair best with seafood, chicken and tangy pasta dishes. White wines tend to be crisp and acidic; therefore, they’re perfect for more delicate meats.
Red wines can be trickier, as they can pair with most meats. However, try to consider richness and body when making your choice. The dominant flavour in most meats is fat, which pairs well with deep smoky reds but also deep, fruitful ones.
If you’re not eating meat, or having a selection of different ones, you have an even larger selection of wines. Sparkling wines go well with cheese and vegetables, but with the rich combination, reds can also. Look at this gran cerdo by Forest Wines. It pairs well with roasted white meats, lamb, charcuterie and salads.
There are most definitely some wines that are more popular than others. Depending on preference, food and various other factors, people gravitate to their favourite wines. Here are some of the most popular wines so you’ll be in the know:
Chardonnay – a sweet, buttery wine that pairs best with seafood or dessert.
Pinot Grigio – a light, dry, refreshing wine reminiscent of apples and pears.
Sauvignon Blanc – a light, crisp wine perfect for seafood.
Cabernet Sauvignon – a deep, rich red wine that goes well with juicy steak.