Wine and food pairing can be confusing. Nowadays we no longer adhere to strict rules of only whites with fish, however we are often uncertain about how to pair particular flavours and elements of a dish. The following are some suggestions for matching food and wine.
Pairing can be tricky, since every dish will have more than just one component. You might try to pair a wine with meat, though it’s not just going to be meat -- it will have spices, side dishes, etc. Ultimately you need to choose which part of the dish you want to emphasize and then match the wine to that component.
First off, one rule that is perhaps the easiest to remember is try to use local cuisines with local wines. i.e. a southern Rhone style Syrah with braised lamb, an Alsace style Riesling with cheese fondue, or a lovely dry Provence style Rosé with a Mediterranean inspired charcuterie plate.
The most basic element of food and wine pairing is corresponding the balance between the "weight" of the food and the weight of the wine. Heavier, robust style varietals like Zinfandel can overwhelm a light, delicate dish like a poached fish, while a lighter style varietal like Sauvignon Blanc would similarly be overwhelmed by hearty ribs. Beyond weight, flavours and textures can either be contrasted or complemented. From there you can also take into consideration the sweetness, acidity, alcohol levels, and tannins of the wine and how they can be accentuated or minimized when paired with certain kinds of food.
Here's seven basic guidelines for your consideration:
- Foods high in acidity, pair well with wines that are equally high in acidity (i.e. a Chianti paired with Tomato sauce -- which works so well because Chianti has high acidity).
- The wine should be sweeter than the food. (i.e. desserts that are sweeter than the wine they accompany can make the wine taste dull and blank).
- The wine should have the same flavour intensity as the food (i.e. spicy dishes can be matched with a spicy Gewürztraminer, which can have for example cloves, ginger, or allspice aromas and flavours).
- Red wines pair best with bold flavoured meats (i.e. red meat), while conversely white wines pair best with light-intensity meats (i.e. fish or chicken)
- Sparkling wines pair well with salty, briny foods (i.e. oysters are a classic match with sparkling, but crunchy olives and even popcorn and potato chips work).
- Tannic wines are best balanced with fat. (i.e. serve a bold Cabernet Sauvignon with a nice marbled piece of prime rib)
- It is better to match the wine with the sauce than with the protein.
Epicurous has a good short video on wine and food pairing that includes suggestions on how to handle "problem" foods like artichokes and asparagus. Our Naramata Bench winery also is holding a series of seminars during the Spring Okanagan Wine Festival on May 5 and 12 with tips and tricks on taking the complexity out pairing food and wine with a focus on pairing food tastes ranging from Salty, Fatty, Acid, Bitter, Sweet, Umami and Spicy. Find out how fun, tasty and easy pairings can be from our Sommelier.