Are you looking for the perfect way to upgrade your dinner? Experimenting with food and wine pairings can be satisfying, but it can also be quite daunting. It can also be one of the most mystifying and intimidating elements of planning a meal. What ought to be a joy often produces a feeling of dread and the fear of making mistakes. That anxiety can set in for both occasional wine drinkers and regular consumers.
The most important thing to remember is to not expect perfection. Even if a bottle and a dish do not meld synergistically, they can still enhance one another.
The simpler the recipe — that is, the fewer the ingredients — the easier it is to find harmony. Even so, pairings are subjective and often depend on the individual rather than chemistry between a food and beverage.
Matching the weight is the best first step when considering a food and wine pairing. This is simply the balance between the weight of the food – for example a heavy, red sauce pasta versus a more delicate salad – with the weight and body of the wine – a heavy cabernet sauvignon versus a more delicate pinot grigio.
In a complementary pairing, the food and wine chosen will share several compounds or flavors. This can be a sweet wine paired with a sweet dish, or a chardonnay with buttery flavours paired with a buttery pasta dish. The important tip when creating complementary pairings is to ensure that the wine is not overwhelmed by the flavors of the food.
Contrasting pairings balance each other with opposite elements. A classic go-to is an off-dry white wine paired with a spicy dish. The wine’s sweetness will cool down and balance out the heat in the dish. Another common contrasting pairing is white wine with salty dishes. The food’s saltiness decreases the impression of sweetness in the wine and brings out the wine’s fruity taste and aromas. A glass of chardonnay or pinot grigio will pair perfectly with salty popcorn and especially well with fried dishes.
There will always be more than one way to pair a wine with food so get creative! There are no wrong answers as long as you like it, have fun and try new things.
Please leave your favourite pairings and best tips and tricks in the comments.