There are few things in life quite as lovely as creating a dinner menu with perfectly paired dishes and wines. Pairing food and wine is an important aspect of any gourmet culinary experience, for when coupled together, the flavours of both separate menu items become enhanced and increasingly dynamic.
Pinot Grigio, for instance, is often thought to pair perfectly with seafood due to its light bodied fruit flavours such as citrus, along with its crisp acidity. Contrastingly, a glass of full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon can turn a garlic and rosemary steak into a melody of flavours and textures.
When it comes to pairing food and wine, having a basic understanding of the general rules to follow can help you develop meaningful gastronomical experiences for yourself and your fellow dinner guests. With the tips we’ve outlined below and a developed understanding of some basic culinary principles in mind, you can craft delicious food and wine combinations that leave a lasting impression.
Read on to help nurture your affinity for pairing food and wine and fine tune your sommelier skills.
1. Match colours of both foods and wines
Believe it or not but visual colour cues can affect how a person tastes and perceives the flavours of pairing food and wine. Studies have found that people perceive white wines to be lighter with more delicate cuisines, while red wines are well-suited to heavier, heartier meals.
Additionally, there is a kind of psychological component involved in our perception of taste; for instance, having a bright green vegetable side dish could match nicely with a higher acidity Sauvignon Blanc, but some may still be inclined to pair this same dish with a light red due to the expectation that all vegetables should always be enjoyed alongside red wine.
Ultimately, considering the colour of both the wine and food when pairing food is an important step that should not be overlooked.
2. Think about whether you want to enhance or balance flavour
If someone has a preference for bold-flavoured foods, combining a food with a big-bodied, full-flavoured wine could be an effective way to enhance the dish’s flavours for that dinner guest. On the other hand, however, complex recipes may instead require milder wines in order to avoid overpowering their delicate flavours. This rings especially true for Asian dishes like rich curries, which are already incredibly flavourful on their own.
Regardless of the pairing food approach chosen, taking a moment beforehand to think through all available options can ensure optimal outcomes from pairing food and wine. With careful consideration of flavour profiles and purposeful decision making matched with creative experimentation, finding the perfect pairing for any meal can be highly rewarding.
3. Consider flavour profiles and body weight
The consideration of the flavour profile and body weight of any given bottle of wine on your drinks menu is extremely important when pairing food with that wine. In order to achieve a successful result, you must take into account the boldness or delicacy of the wine and ensure that it complements or contrasts with the characteristics of the food you’d like to pair it with.
For example, lighter foods should be paired with light-bodied wines, such as Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc, and more robust dishes should be paired with reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. The lighter flavours of white or sparkling wine are likely to clash with deeper, richer dishes, causing a contradiction in the culinary experience and throwing a diner’s palate totally out of balance. Understanding the nuances within a particular varietal will aid in effectively pairing food to a given tier of wines.
4. Match sweetness and acidity levels
Sweetness in the wine should balance the amount of acidity in the food to create a harmonious union between drink and dish. It is generally accepted that dry wines pair well with fatty proteins because dryness reduces their richness, while sweeter drinks pair better with tart foods due to their ability to even out the sour notes. It definitely makes sense in theory already, but we recommend testing this out yourself to help refine your own palate and develop the ability to pick up on these subtle dynamics between foods and wines.
Furthermore, acidic dishes work well with high acid wines, whereas heavier meats will require more tannins (i.e., a dryer style) to match up; otherwise an overly sweet combination could result. By carefully considering these factors when planning meals, culinary and oenology connoisseurs can guarantee an enjoyable experience with each and every pour.
5. Avoid over-powering odours
Certain foods with pungent aromas like garlic and onion can naturally be hard to pair as they can overpower many wines. This is because these two particular flavours can clash drastically with certain wines and obscure the subtle nuances of their bouquet, significantly reducing a wine’s perceived aroma and flavour.
The best way to avoid a mix-up in this case is to plan ahead when fostering the relationship between different food and wines, by taking into consideration which ingredients tend to become more pungent when cooked or prepared. If you have a lot of garlic in a seafood dish, then chances are a lighter white wine may not be a suitable accompaniment to this meal. Why not opt instead for an oaked Chardonnay or perhaps even a Muscat? The richer flavours of these whites are more likely to pair well with heavier dishes like garlic prawns, buttered lobster, and even creamy seafood carbonaras, just to name a few.
6. Choose wines based on regionality
Every region has a wine style and food type that are believed to pair best together. For example, Pinot Noir from Burgundy is the classic for pairing food and wine with dishes like coq au vin or beef bourguignon because the earthy and tart flavours of the wine work well to complement similar flavours in the local cuisine.
Similarly, Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand pairs well with dishes featuring seafood due to its herbaceous and zesty character which brighten many elements of seafood-based dishes. Taking regionality into consideration when choosing wines for specific meals can provide a sense of authenticity and help ensure that an ideal flavour combination is achieved.
Finally, it is important to bear in mind that while both the quality of the food and the expertise in mixing flavours play a part in creating a successful meal, pairing food and select wines with distinct recipes will contribute to enhancing each bite with its unique complexities. Showcasing subtle nuances in flavours by combining them brings depth to the table and results in an unforgettable experience for your guests.