Red or white? Which wine is best to accompany your food?
The ability to pair food and wine is somewhat of an art. This is something a lot of people don’t appreciate, which is probably because they are yet to experience the perfect pairing. When you match the right wine with the right food, the outcome is incredible. You will experience a taste sensation like non other. In some cases, this can be fairly easy; you can’t go too wrong with Sauvignon Blanc and sea bass! In other instances, it is a lot more difficult. But, don’t fret, as we have all of the information you need to know.
The elements of food and wine pairing:
Firstly, you need to be aware of the different elements of both white and red wine that makes pairings work. These elements are derived from how food characteristics mix with that of the wine. So, let’s take a look at each element in further depth.
Texture – The safest way to go about matching textures is to simply pair heavy wines with heavy food, and light wines with light food. Once you start to get a bit more comfortable with your wine matching skills, you should then start experimenting with contrasting textures.
Bitterness – What you need to realise about bitter wine and bitter food is that unlike other combinations they do not cancel each other out. Instead, they merely combine, which means even more bitterness. Moreover, bitterness in wine tends to be viewed as a negative thing, as it usually occurs when the barrels have been mismanaged, the grapes were unripe, or there is a failure to get the seeds and stems out of the fermenting tank.
Sweetness – You probably think this is the easiest match of them all, and it can be; there is no denying that a sweet wine works with a sweet dessert. Nevertheless, there are different levels of sweetness, so you need to get it right. When enjoying a sweet dessert, the wine needs to be sweeter; otherwise the wine will seem tart or bitter. Wines with a high level of alcohol often work well because they have a certain sweetness that balances out the sugar in the food.
Salt – You don’t have many wine choices at your disposal when eating salty food. You will need a bit of imagination, as salt can make wines with a high level of alcohol bitter, they can strip the fruit out of red wine, and they can give an odd taste to an oaky Chardonnay. You should try an acidic wine, as this can balance the flavours and clean out the salt. Another one of the best options is sparkling wine.
Acid – Acid is an element that is found in both wine and food. In both instances, it can add lift, freshness, and nerve. If you choose a wine that is not equal to the perceived acidity of the food, it will taste washed out and bland.
Fat – Of course, wine does not contain any fat, so when looking for the right type you need to find something that matches the richness, cuts it with tannin, or balances it with acid. This is why a Cabernet-based wine is the perfect choice for a prime cut of steak. The mouth-drying tannins of the wine are softened due to the fat and protein in the beef.
One thing you need to do when pairing wine with food is have an open mind. Remember, all of the advice provided in this article is merely that – advice. There are no set rules regarding what you can and can’t enjoy. Experiment and if you find something you like, stick with it. You should simply use these tips as a starting point. You don’t want to ruin a gourmet meal by opting for something that is way off the mark, but you don’t want to select a wine that you simply don’t like either. It is all about finding the right balance – a wine you love that suits the food you are enjoying.
Personally I love nothing more than a good steak. Anytime I’m eating red meat or a heavier meal I would choose a Chateauneuf-du-Pape (AOC) to go with it, this will often be my wine of choice when eating cheese, which I do a little too often! I personally don’t drink too much white wine but always have a bottle of Louis Roederer champagne in the wine fridge for when we have an occasion for something a little lighter. Talking of champagne, Christmas morning would not be complete in our house without a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Demi-Sec, which due to its sweetness goes perfectly with fresh orange juice for a bucks fizz!
Now that you are armed with some of my favourites and all of the information you need about pairing wine and food, let’s take a look at some great pairings to help you get started.
Dessert – As touched upon earlier, sweet wines go with sweet desserts. You simply need to make sure that the wine is sweeter than the dessert or at least equal.
Cheese – This all depends on the type of cheese you are going to enjoy. If you are a lover of blue cheese, sweet wine is a good match. For soft cheese, you should try dry Riesling, Viognier, or Marsanne. For hard cheese, a full-bodied wine is the best choice, for example, cheddar cheese is perfectly suited to a Shiraz.
Duck or quail – It is advisable to start with a Shiraz or Pinot Noir. This is because duck is fatty and thus it is best to choose a wine that has some freshness and acidity.
Tomato based meals – Tomato based meals, such as pizza and pasta, are acidic, and, therefore, you need to use the tips provided earlier, i.e. select a wine that has the same level of acidity, or more. Good options include Zinfandel, Sangiovese, or Barbera.
Game – Generally, a spicy red wine works well with any type of game, but you’d be wise to choose one with a more delicate flavor when eating partridge otherwise it can overwhelm the meat. The opposite can be said for grouse, as it has a much stronger character.
Spicy – When enjoying spicy food, try and opt for a wine with a contrasting flavor, such as a sweet wine, like Riesling.
Fish and seafood – A light, white wine perfectly complements the delicate and subtle flavours of fish and seafood.
Chicken – Chicken is unique in the sense that it does go with quite a lot of wines. However, white wine is a good place to start, as chicken is a light meat.
Beef and lamb – Finally, any type of full-bodied red wine tends to go well with lamb or beef.