It’s the kind of topic that can send many slumping into their pockets and avoiding eye contact-but food and wine pairing as is significant as it is intimidating.
The right wine really can enhance your meal, but it can also completely ruin it. If you are on-board with this I implore you to right now, stop what you are doing, and go and buy yourself a bottle of shiraz. After this, purchase one bucket of finger licking KFC chicken. Proceed to “enjoy” the two together.
Um, its not that great huh?
So, now that we are all convinced, lets carry on.
Unfortunately, wine and food pairing is not as easy as saying chardonnay + fish = success. This is because not all varietals of wine are created equal and life just isn’t allowed to be that straightforward. If you’re already confused, have a look at our sommelier’s cheat sheet to understand the basics.
Here’s some cardinal rules of food and wine pairing to give you an overall guide.
#1 Acid Needs Acid
Any food with a high acid level, something you just want to squeeze a lemon onto, is a perfect match for a high acid wine. In fact, choose the right wine and there might be no need for the lemon wedge. So for something like oysters, think bright, light and not too heavy, perhaps a Riesling, unoakaed Chardonnay or Prosecco for something sparkling. If you are serving a pasta with tomato sauce, opt for a Barolo, Sauvignon Blanc or Chianti.
#2 Tannins Need Fat
What is a Tannin anyway? It’s the astringent component in red wine that gives it structure, as well as that puckering feeling in the back of your throat. To balance this out, Tannins need fat. So, for fattier dishes, like pork, go with a wine high in Tannins. How would you know such a thing? Tannins create a drying sensation in your mouth. People often do that weird mini tongue slapping move to figure this out. Or you can ask the guy at your nearest trendy bottle shop.
#3 The Red And White Rule
We have all heard the old rule; White Wine for White Meat, Red Wine for Red Meat. The reason for that is acid and Tannins, not colour. So, with that in mind, you can choose the right combinations while breaking this rule. For example, if you are a committed Red Wine person, who wants to pair with an acidic pork or chicken dish, choose a high acid, low tannin red.
#4 It’s More Than Just The Meat
Your wine should be paired with the most dominant flavour of the dish. This may not always be the meat. Just because you have steak on your plate, doesn’t mean that is the flavour that will stick around. What sauce is there? Is there a thick mushroom number to accompanying it? If the sauce on your plate is the dominant flavour, pair to that, not the meat.
#5 Dessert & Spicy Food Need Sugar in a Glass
You want the wine to be sweeter than the dessert. Even if you are not drawn to the sweeter wines, taking a sip of a rich, sweet port before, and after, a bit of a dense fudgy cake completely transforms the flavours of both elements. Meanwhile, serving a super spicy dish with a high alcohol, tannin heavy wine with will set your guests on fire. Alcohol intensifies the heat of food. So, if you want your dish to be spicier, reach for a high tannin, high alcohol wine. If you want to dull the effects, look for an adult equivalent of fruity lexia. Or you know, a sweet rose.