Wine & Food Pairing Tips
Having worked in the wine retail trade for over thirty years, I can say without a doubt that the most frequently asked question is “What wine would you serve with this dish/meal/occasion?” And in that same period of time, I have never answered “Well, you must drink such and such with this dish”. That would be far too presumptuous, dogmatic and plain wrong. My job is to find out what my customer wants, and then present alternatives that might work for his or her tastes.
There is no such thing as a “correct pairing”, since we all have such varied tastes. Having said that, here are some quick tips you may find helpful when you go about finding that bottle of vino to go with that special meal. Remember, the tips are guidelines only, and based on the science of taste, human perception and chemistry. If you read somewhere that you should not drink full-bodied reds with a delicate fish like sole, but you thoroughly enjoy it, keep doing it! Nobody should be telling you what you should not enjoy.
- When in doubt, serve sparkling wine. If you’re going over to a friend’s place and have no idea what they are serving, go for bubbly. Its fun, festive and for the most part, food friendly. The bubbles cleanse the palate, and the zingy acidity will cut through many rich flavors. I have found that, hands down, the ultimate wine pairing with KFC is a bottle of sparkling wine. And it does not have to be French Champagne to be good. Try a Prosecco from Italy or a Cava from Spain.
- When searching for a wine to pair with the dessert course, the wine should be slightly sweeter than the dessert. The chemistry behind this is the same as why I recommend serving a dryer wine before the sweeter one. If you serve something sweeter, and then follow it with something less sweet, the sweetness of the first will make the following wine taste harsh. This guideline will help make your dessert course and the wines you serve with it taste more harmonious. If you are into extreme experimentation or skeptical, try drinking a dry red with chocolate Guarantee you’ll make faces!
- The more spicy the food, the sweeter the wine you can serve. Spicy foods can wipe out the nuances of many wines. If you are serving a moderately spicy dish, try pairing it with a white wine with some sweetness, like a German Riesling. If the dish packs lots of heat, you can try pairing it with an even sweeter late harvest wine. Or, you can opt for a nice, refreshing cool lager with lots of hops to it. I’m shocked that more Thai and Asian restaurants have not caught onto this trick.
- The flavors of the wine and food should complement, not compete. Try pairing lighter bodied wines with more subtle dishes and fuller-bodied wines with more flavorful ones. In this manner, one does not dominate the other. The person who enjoys a massive, full throttled, oaky Shiraz with sole is not wrong, but I guarantee you the wine will wipe out the food. You may enjoy this, but think of your dinner companions!
I hope these quick tips will assist you in the upcoming festive season. If you have any questions about food and wine pairings, the team at deVine Wines would be glad to offer you assistance. We can be reached by phone at 780.421.9463 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org