Food and Wine Pairing: Going Back to the Basics
By Jamie du Plessis
Food and wine are a match made in heaven. It’s all about the balance of flavours and aromas complementing one another. If you can find a wine with a good balance, it will work perfectly with any meal. However, there are many factors to consider when pairing food and wine together.
As you may know, food and wine pairing match a specific type of food with a particular kind of wine to give you the best experience.
Complementing your flavours together aims to enhance your dining experience by bringing out the best in both foods and wines. This can be done by combining certain flavours that complement each other or contrasting them to bring out their true potential. It also holds many benefits:
- It helps us enjoy our meals more by broadening our perspective
- It gives us an insight into how different types of foods and wines work together
- It allows us to explore new kinds of foods and wines
The perfect wine pairing
The right wine, the right dish and the right time. That’s what you want when pairing.
What makes a good pairing? Three key elements:
- Your subjective tastes (your sense of taste is personal, so it’s essential to consider that)
- The right dish (something that suits the flavours of both food and drink)
- Looking to the ‘The Classics’ (pairing your foods with classic wines)
It is an art. It can be challenging. It’s not an exact science, but there are some rules to be followed that will help you avoid many of the pitfalls.
It’s not an exact science because every food and wine pairing can be unique and personal. While one person may love a particular dish with a specific wine, it might not work for another. When you’re ready to pair wine and food, there are a few things to consider. First, it’s not just about throwing random items together and hoping for the best.
3 Important Keys to Food Pairing According to the European Sommeliers Court of Masters
• Method of Production
– Low vs. Medium vs. High Impact.
• Sauces, Condiments and side dishes
– Can be the dominant factor in a food/wine match.
The key to wine and food pairing is balance: you want the wine to complement (not overpower) the flavours in your dish and vice versa. A light red or rose pairs well with lighter dishes like pasta primavera or salmon on a baguette. But not with something heavier like crispy pork belly or spicy sausage pizza.
The same goes for texture. Think about how soft or hard your food is compared to its taste profile. Then match that up with a similarly textured wine, like a crisp Sauvignon Blanc for crunchy vegetables or an oaky Chardonnay for soft chicken breast. It’s this attention to detail that makes pairing so fun!
The perfect glass of wine
Speaking of wine glasses, the right glass enhances the experience of drinking wine. It may not seem like a big deal, but the right glass can help you savour every sip.
This is especially true if you’re new to drinking wine or don’t care much about it. Trying a different type of glass can make a huge difference in your appreciation for the beverage. You’ve probably seen those long-stemmed glasses that are used for expensive Bordeaux wines—they’re called “proper” glasses because they allow more oxygen into your mouth and nose, enhancing your sense of smell and taste for both food and wine.
Shira Tsiddon, a sommelier at The Norman Hotel in Tel Aviv, explained to Liquor.com, “When pouring the wine and holding the glass up, you cannot feel it exists. The glass is nearly transparent, both visually and physically. It makes the wine taste even more majestic than it usually does.”
The shape also helps release aromas from inside the bottle so that they fill up each sip instead of just sitting on top as bubbles do in flutes.
Red wine has more complex flavours than white (particularly chocolatey notes). So, it takes longer to develop them thoroughly to be appropriately appreciated by someone with little experience drinking aged wine.
Setting up a Match
– Determine the dish’s most dominant component and how to work with it.
– Determine the supporting/minor players.
– Don’t forget the sauce or condiment!
Don’t be afraid of asking for help when constructing your plate or glassware. Suppose you’re hosting a dinner party and are worried about making mistakes while preparing food or wine pairings for guests. Use these general guidelines as a starting point for creating a fantastic selection of both delicious dishes and exquisite wines.
But if those ideas aren’t enough for your next event or if someone has specific dietary restrictions, don’t hesitate to ask an expert friend or colleague for advice on how best to proceed!
Don’t shy away from trying new things just because they seem intimidating. While some foods should never go together (we’re looking at you, chocolate cake). Most pairings are quite simple once we break down their various components.
This means even if something seems unusual at first glance (such as pairing white wine with pizza), chances are good that there’s nothing weird going on here. Just two things that complement each other really well!
Something magical happens when flavours start complementing one another
You taste flavours you never knew existed in both. They become intertwined and indistinguishable from each other—even when there’s no cooking involved!
Food pairing 101 is a science. It requires an understanding of how foods and wines interact chemically and an appreciation for how ingredients and dishes create distinct flavour profiles that complement each other.
However, just as much as it is about science, food pairing is also about art. Creating a harmonious symphony that not only pleases your palate but also provides sensory delight on multiple levels through sight, smell and sound (the latter being mainly reserved for those who enjoy slightly chilled wines).
There are many approaches to pairing wine with food—some very traditional, while others are downright unconventional. But most important of all is finding what works best for you!
Some general guidelines
Take your time with the pairing process. As with all things in life, you can’t always predict what will work and what won’t.
Sometimes you’ll get it right on the first try, but other times you may need to try a few combinations before finding that perfect match. Don’t be afraid to experiment! Remember: The best way to learn is through experimentation and trial and error.