So you’d like to know a few things or two about wine and start entertaining people with wine, from your house. Perhaps you’ve only been the recipient of wine-pairing at restaurants, or at a friend’s house, and you know nothing about pairing food with wine.
But nobody said that pairing food with wine had to be high brow. We’ve created a simple guide that even the ultimate noob would understand, or rather, the ultimate basic 101 to pairing wine with food aka the route to impressing your guests.
Here are five very short and simple tips to begin your journey on wine-pairing!
1. Think body
And when we say body, it mostly refers to how heavy the wine feels in your mouth. Kind of like how milk comes in: skim, whole milk, and cream, and vary in thickness accordingly, heavy-bodied wines also tend to linger in the mouth in a similar fashion, while lighter-bodied wines tend to be more refreshing.
So if you’ve been pouring article after article trying to figure out what those wine experts really mean, through all their various terminology, you’ll often see that they recommend white wines with chicken or fish, and red wines with steak.
Often, the lighter a wine is in colour, the ‘lighter’ in body it is, and the less alcohol content it tends to have, too. Essentially, it really is all about balance.
In other words, for more delicate meats like white fish, or chicken, light white wines tend to be recommended as heavier-bodied red wines tend to overwhelm the light, delicate flavour of the meat. On the other hand, you want something heavy-bodied for something as hearty as steak, as a lighter bodied wine would be overwhelmed by the heavy flavours of the steak.
That being said, not all heavy-bodied wines are red, and not all light-bodied wines are white – Beaujolais, a light-bodied red wine, is a prime example of it being against that rule.
2. Pair like with like
Confused about this whole wine-pairing thing? Simply look out for similar characteristics, and pair them accordingly.
Acidity – If you’re serving up acidic food, perhaps something with lemon, or a lemon sauce, choose an acidic wine.
Sweetness – Serving up sweet desserts to the guests? Serve up a sweet dessert wine – think a cherry wine with a cherry dessert! That being said, do be sure that the wine is sweeter than the dessert, or it may taste bitter in comparison.
Taste – Having your pals over for a BBQ? Serve up a smoky wine to pair well with grilled foods. Serving up some mushrooms? Serve up some earthy wine. Serving up something fruity? Try fruity wines – try to match the flavour of the wine to the fruits!
Intense flavours – Serve a strongly flavoured wine like Pico a Pico Merlot Carmenere with thick, spicy, Indian curries.
Texture – Eating something creamy like a creamy, Boston lobster with some seafood bisque? Try similarly creamy, rich wine to pair it off!
3. Keep it local
And by this, we mean pairing off wines according to where they come from – which means Italian foods with Italian wines, French food with French wine… so on and so forth.
After all, back in the ancient days, people used to simply use pair their own local wines with their own local food – a system that’s worked pretty well, we reckon! Plus, the wines there are catered to each region’s own specific taste, and their own herbs, and spices, so it makes sense that the wines in the area would be similar to the food, too.
4. Match the wines with the sauce, not the meat!
If you’ve added some white wine, in say, your Pesto, chances are it’ll pair off great too, as a beverage.
Think it’d be too similar? When cooking wine in food, the alcohol content tends to evaporate, leaving behind a taste that is a sweeter, slightly more concentrated version of the wine used. Serving up a cup of wine right beside it will help to accentuate, and complement the sweetness of the wine used.
5. Contrast your wines
Alternatively, you could also choose to go completely off-kilter in your wine-pairing – instead of the usual advice of how you should pair like with like, you can choose to use your wines as a contrast against the main course.
For example, pairing a wine with high acid content with hot, rich, creamy spicy foods like Indian curries, an acidic wine works as a good contrast as the acidity will help to cut through the richness of the curry, and even helps to cool down the mouth – great if your guests don’t have a good tolerance for spicy food!
That being said, it would only be wise to pair rich foods with lighter alcohols, but not vice versa – for example, steak with a light-tasting wine will just taste like water.