There is no better way to show your knowledge about food and wine than pairing the perfect bottle of wine with the food on the table!
Nothing enhances the dining experience more than a great wine that matches perfectly with the food! Nothing makes your guests happier!
What does pairing food and wine mean?
You have to choose a wine which characteristics will match perfectly or contrast perfectly with the components of the dish and create a perfect balance for a great dining experience.
That in itself means you have to have a vast knowledge about wine and food.
Now, let’s take a look at which characteristics of the wine and which components of the food we need to pay attention to.
Let’s be honest: a wine has many different characteristics and a dish has a lot of components and we cannot match all of those perfectly! Which are the important ones?
If you ask Gordon Ramsey he will tell you that the food has more than 20 different tastes (characteristics) but fortunately for the wine pairing we need to focus only on 6 of them!
Salt, Acid, Sweet, Bitter, Fat and Spicy
when it comes to wine the things are getting even easier. We have to focus on 3 main characteristics when we try to pair the wine with the food:
Acidity, Sweetness, Bitterness (Tannin)
Knowing the basics characteristics of the main types of wine will help you a lot with matching the right food and wine.
In general, Red Wine has more tannin and therefore Bitterness.
White and Rose Wines contain more Acidity and the Sweet Wines have more sugar (sweetness).
Now all you need to know is what components of the food define the taste of the dish and then the different types of pairing to start matching food and wine perfectly, right? …hm, not so fast 😊
Unfortunately, with the food, it is not so easy. We have to identify the dominant tastes since they could be more than one. For example, a dish with red meat and a lot of sauce will have two dominant tastes. One from the meat and one from the sauce! In this case, it is better to match the wine with the taste of the sauce than with the taste of the meat.
Here are some basic pairing food and wine techniques:
- Red wine pairs better with red meat
- White wine pairs better with white meat or fish
- The intensity of the wine should equal the intensity of the meal
- The wine should have more acidity than the food
- The wine should have more sweetness than the food
- Fat food pairs best with heavy tannin wines
- The sauce of the meal defies the flavor of the meal better than the meat in it. Match the wine with the characteristics of the sauce
- Better pair red wines with food with similar characteristics (taste) – congruent pairing
- Better pair white wines with food with contrasting characteristics (taste) – contrasting (complimentary) pairing.
- If you have a meal with sauce Bechamel you can create complementary (contrasting) pairing with a Sauvignon Blanc. The food is creamy and fatty and the wine is high on acidity. You can also create a congruent pairing with nice creamy, low acidity Chardonnay. Both the food and wine have similar characteristics! So, if you have a guest who hesitates between the two wines, you can point to him/her that they both will create a fine pairing but it is recommended for white wine to create complementary pairing and that’s why you will advise the guest to chose the Sauvignon Blanc! And you will score a big point 😊
There are some basic matching tactics:
- Bitterness matches well with Saltiness, Fattiness, and Sweetness
- Acidity matches well with Sweetness, Fattiness, Saltiness
- Sweetness matches well with all other tastes
Before you start pairing food and wine you have to learn the taste every component brings to a certain meal and to identify the intensity of the meal as a whole.
Example: A simple green salad with Italian balsamic vinaigrette will have the bitter taste from the green and the acid from the vinaigrette as the primary taste will be acidity. The balsamic vinaigrette has more intensity than the bitterness in the greens.
You will have to learn and be able to identify the characteristics of the wine. Here are some basic characteristics of the most popular wines you can use to pair wine with food:
– full body, heavy tannin wines that are fruity and have low acidity. Learn more here.
– very fruity wines with a light body, light tannin, and high acidity.
– medium body wines with red fruit flavors, low tannins, and medium acidity
– full body wines with high acidity and fruitiness and low tannin
– Medium to full body wines with medium fruitiness, low acidity and mostly dry ( no sweetness).
– Light body wines with high acidity and very fruity. Mostly dry or very low sweetness.
– light body wines with medium acidity, not so much fruitiness but lightly sweet.
There is a lot more to learn about pairing food and wine if you want to go deep into the process but as of right now you have the basics that will help you chose the proper bottle of wine and impress your guests.
There is one more idea about pairing wine and food that makes its way to the spotlight lately and you can use it to impress your guests even more! Here it is:
Instead of pairing the wine with the food, you suggest the guests pair the food with their favorite wine!
You can check this amazing book “Wine Food: New adventures in drinking and cooking” if you want to dig deeper into this great idea!
This is what I mean: there are a lot of people who drink only one type of wine or even exactly one particular wine no matter where they go and what they eat. I have guests in my restaurant that come every day and drink the same wine every day. So when you know already what wine the guest will be drinking why not suggest food that will match perfectly with their favorite wine?
How many times you have a bottle of fine wine in your house and you want to invite guests to taste it? Doesn’t it make sense to prepare a meal that will match perfectly with this exact wine?
How about you ask your guests in the restaurant if they have some particular preferences about their wine so you can suggest a meal that will match the characteristics of this wine or compliment the wine perfectly? How impressed your guests will be with this approach. I bet you that no one has ever told them something like that before!
The worlds of food and wine are enormous and the possibilities of pairing those two worlds are endless! We have to start somewhere and I believe I have given you the tools to start and do a great job!
If you like this article and find it useful, please share it, give it a like and if you feel like chatting leave a comment below! I will highly appreciate that!
Enjoy your meal and I will see you soon with the next video or article!
The Waiter’s Academy