PRINCIPLES OF THE MATCH
Simply put, food and wine pairing goes beyond matching the basic colour of a dish with that of wine: you ideally need to feel the body & nourish the flavour, as food interacting with wine affects taste (in terms of tannins, acidity and sweetness).
Wine and food can complement each other, provided they do not mask the unique characteristics of both, just as the same wine can bring out different taste sensations matched with various ingredients and methods of preparation.
Food flavours depend on smell (sensory impressions) and taste, as well as temperature and texture. Added flavourants (natural or artificial chemicals), also affect the senses, alongside the timing by which it is added.
Consider the component flavours and weight of a dish
- light (fish and asparagus are obviously lighter) - heavier (steak and potatoes)
- add a sauce (that provides the flavour), and the body of the wine moves up - light (fish) to heavier (beef)
- Match flavor intensity of the food weak/moderate/strong body texture - light, medium or heavy wine, making the wine at least as heavy as the dish, though not lighter
- light colour/light body, light colour/heavy body, dark colour/light body, dark colour/heavy body
- Consider taste: sweet/acidic/salty/spicy/sour/bitter should always be more important than flavour, then compare with the fruity/earthy/grassy/herbal aromas of wine
Does the dish taste mild or flavourful? Is it fatty or lean? Is it rich or acidic? Is it dry or oily?
Match mild foods with mild wines. Match big, flavourful food with similar wines
- Acidic dishes such as Shrimp with Lemon or Pasta with Tomato Sauce should pair up with acidic wine
- Fatty foods make tannin in (red) and acid (white) wine less apparent and cleanse the palate nicely of fat
- Rich dishes towards bold (heavier) – delicate dishes towards gentler (lighter) i.e. spice/green pepper/earthy dishes
- Rich cream sauces will usually clash with an acidic wine like a Sauvignon Blanc
- Herbs & seasoning must compliment food dishes, as should sauces (see flavour & flavorings). Fresh herbs go well with cold dishes, but should be added near the end
- Salt magnifies natural flavours, making them richer or more delicate. Salty food normally goes well with acidic and sweet wines, enhancing tastes, but be careful to pair salty dishes with high tannin and heavier wines.
Spices, such as hot chili peppers prevalent in some Chinese or Indian meals, can clash and destroy flavours in a wine
More spicy food will go well with an off-dry Gewürztraminer or Riesling.
Tannin tastes similar to the flavour you would get if you sucked on a tea bag
This astringent quality is what helps strip the fats from your tongue and thereby cleanse the palate, providing a refined, refreshing drink
Tannins do not go well with delicate flavours, but in wine longer matured, compliments heavier dishes
Natural tannin in food (walnuts/espresso/tea/ berries) makes it hard to taste that in wine
- Bitterness in food (broccoli) accentuates the bitter in wine
Ingredients such as artichokes, olives, vinegar, yogurt, asparagus, and chocolate all influence the taste of wine
Think about the sauce of a dish first as this could have a distinctive effect on your choice of wine