When it comes to pairing wines most people overthink it. Of course, it should be given some thought. After all, who wants to ruin a perfectly delicious meal by clashing it with the wrong wine? However, you don’t need to be a sommelier to put together a simple and perfect pairing for your meals so long as you keep a few things in mind.
Food & Wine Characteristics
Before you can pair food with wine you will need to understand some basic characteristics of the taste of both. First, with regard to food, you’ll want to focus on whether the food is salty, fatty, sweet, acidic, spicey, or bitter. With regard to the wine, you’ll want to focus on the body, the acidity, the tannin and the sweetness. Of course, there are other food characteristics such as texture and there are also other wine characteristics. However, if you focus on the basics, you should be okay for most pairings.
Match Flavor Intensity
When pairing wines, you want to make sure that the wine’s intensity compliments the intensity of flavor in the food. If the wine’s flavors are too intense for the dish, the wine will dominate the food and the pairing will fall apart. For example, you wouldn’t want to pair a bold and intense wine with a dish like miso soup. Generally speaking, miso soup has a delicate flavor and would be dominated by a flavor intense wine. A quick rule of thumb is to match bold, tannic, wines with bold and intense dishes.
Pair Complimentary Characteristics
When pairing your wine with your food focus on complimentary characteristics. For example, acid compliments fatty or creamy dishes. Higher acid wines cut through fat and help offset the richness of the dish. The wine also cleanses the palate in preparation for the next bite. Another example, of a complimentary pairing is sweet and spicy. Sugar helps to offset or cooldown spice on the palate. So if you’re serving a really spicy dish, a wine with perceived sweetness or some residual sugar isn’t a bad way to go.
Pair Foods & Wines that Grow Together
One easy thing to remember is, “if they grow together they go together”. While there are some exceptions, wine and food from the same place are likely pair well together. For example, Tempranillo is a Spanish grape so it’s no surprise that it compliments a variety of Spanish dishes. In fact, one of the best pairings we have come across to date is Pur Euphoria, a Tempranillo Rose, paired with a fish and shrimp ceviche, a popular Spanish dish. The fruit forward strawberry and cranberry, flavors of the Rose pair beautifully with the light, citrus, and fresca seafood flavors of the ceviche. It’s the perfect spring and summer dish.
The Bottom Line
Pairing food and wine is an intersection of art and science. Chemistry and biology create the food and the wine’s characteristics while you, the artist, decide which characteristics to highlight with your pairing. Sometimes you create the Mona Lisa of pairings and other times, you get the equivalent of a kindergarten photo. In the end, its all trial and error so don’t be afraid to take risk and have fun!