A Guide To Pairing: The Basics
If you’re new to wine, you might have asked yourself why people pair wine with food. The main reason is to enhance the dining experience and the flavours of both the food and the wine. Since taste is a personal preference, pairing can be subjective. However, there are a few basics for pairing wine and food that you can follow. Whether you’re new to pairing or just looking for some inspiration, we’ve put together a guide for wine and food pairing.
Complimenting or enhancing flavours
There are two initial factors to consider when pairing – complimentary or congruent.
Your goal with complementary pairing is to balance the flavour profiles. For example, pairing a soft cheese with a high acidity wine like Pinot Gris. Congruent pairing, on the other hand, is used to enhance the flavour of a dish. So, to enhance the richness of the cheese, we would pair it with a sparkling wine.
Our pick: try pairing a soft, creamy brie with a sparkling bottle of Champagne to cut through the fat of the cheese and enhance its flavour profile.
Match according to weight
This part of pairing is all about matching light, less fatty food, with a lighter wine and vice versa. Heavy meals such as meaty dishes are best enjoyed with full-bodied reds, including Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, whereas delicate fish meals are better matched with a light wine such as Sauvignon Blanc.
Our pick: pair a rich salmon dish with a delicate red, such as Pinot Noir.
Flavour and intensity
Since your wine and food should be working together, it’s important to note have any overwhelming tastes. For this reason, you should match the flavour intensity and character of your dish. Rich, flavourful foods need a rich wine that won’t go unnoticed, whereas a light dish needs a delicate wine to ensure the flavours aren’t being overwhelmed or lost. If you’re ever unsure, you can never go wrong by pairing red meat with red wine, and white meat with white wine!
Our pink: enjoy a delicious chicken dish with a creamy sauce paired with a rich wine like Chardonnay.
Keep acidity in mind
Acidity works well to balance fat and harmonises well with the natural acidity in food. As a simple rule, keep your wine more acidic than your meal. For example, you could pair a vinegar-based-dressing salad with a crispy Pinot Grigio, or a young Riesling with beer battered fish and chips to balance the oil.
Our pick: a flavourful Indian curry with a sparkling rose or Riesling.
Red wine tannin not only adds bitterness to some foods, but it can also soften the mouthfeel of a rich meal. The taste of this astringent flavour helps cleanse the palate and make the taste buds ready for another bite. You can match tannins with fats for a balanced meal.
Our pick: try a fatty prime rib with a rich, full bodied glass of Malbec.
Sweet and spicy foods
When it comes to spicy dishes, pairing your meal with a low-alcoholic, sweet wine will offer you some relief without compromising the taste.
If you’re looking for a wine to pair with dessert, it is best to choose a bottle that is sweeter than your dish. Prosecco is best served with fruit-based desserts, whereas milk chocolate-based desserts go perfectly with aged sparkling reds.
Our pick: enjoy a classic pavlova with a glass of sweet Semillon.
Words to know
When pairing wines, it’s important to know the right words so you’re getting the most out of your matches. Here are some basic wine words you should have in your vocabulary.
Acidity: this is what gives wine it’s refreshing, slightly tart, and crisp taste. A wine that has a sharp taste is more acidic than others. Acidity is present in all grapes and helps to preserve the wine.
Tannin: wine tannins are extracted from grape skins, seeds, stems, and oak barrels.
Body: this term is used to describe the flavour profile of the wine, generally either light, medium, or full bodied, and the weight in your mouth when drinking it.
Finish: after you swallow a mouthful of wine, the sensation you feel is referred to as the finish. You will be able to identify if it is sweet, tart, bitter, or smoky.
Now you know the basics of food and wine pairing, it’s time to start discovering your favourite matches. Have any more tips? Be sure to share them with us on our socials.