7 tips for the perfect food and wine pairing
Question – what happens when you pair a delicious meal with a great bottle of wine? The answer is, you get the best of both worlds.
When you find a wine that pairs beautifully with a dish, it can elevate your experience of both components and can truly create a memorable meal for all.
When choosing a wine and food pairing, there are always several things to consider, from big decisions like which dish you’ll be cooking, to the finer details, such as the wine’s temperature.
If you’d like to impress your guests at your next dinner party and master the art of pairing wine with food, read on for seven top tips.
1. Choose one element of the dish to pair with
Start by choosing the centrepiece of your plate – what is the main focus of the dish going to be? Whilst it’s often assumed this should be a meat, or fish, this isn’t actually the case and you could pair your wine with a sauce or vegetable instead.
As a rule of thumb, you want to pair your wine with the most prominent flavour on your plate, so if that’s the plumb sauce that you’re serving with your duck, then that’s the element of the dish to pair with.
2. Focus on taste
You may have heard that red wine pairs best with meat dishes and white wine pairs best with lighter-weight dishes, such as chicken and fish. Whilst this is a great place to start, the focus should be more on the taste of the food you’re serving.
In general, food will pair best with wine that is just as sweet, or even sweeter than the dish and on the whole, the wine should have a similar intensity of flavour to the food.
3. Acidity levels impact wine pairings
You can also use the acidity level of the food to determine the type of wine that will be most suitable for your meal. If your chosen dish has a high level of acidity, like you’d find in a pasta and tomato sauce dish, it’s best to pair it with an equally acidic wine, like a Sauvignon Blanc.
4. Cheese doesn’t have to be paired with red wine
If you’re making a dish that features cheese, such as a goat’s cheese tart or even a fondue, you may be inclined to match it with red wine, as this is the most traditional wine and cheese pairing. In reality, there are so many other ways to pair wine with cheese than always relying on a Merlot or Pinot Noir.
Fresh and soft cheeses often pair well with crisp white wines, dry rosés, sparkling wines, dry aperitifs, and light-bodied reds with low tannins. Cheeses such as creamy camembert, brie, or other soft, surface-ripened cheeses, pair well with white wine because of their freshness, aromatic notes, sweetness and acidity.
5. Keep temperature in mind
Temperature plays an important role when drinking wine in general, not just when you’re pairing it with food and drinking wine that is too cold can affect your palate.
It is recommended to serve red wines slightly cooler than room temperature, between 62 and 68 degrees F (15 and 20 °C). White wines should be served slightly warmer than fridge temperature, between 49-55 degrees F (7-12 degrees C).
6. If in doubt, pair food and wine from the same region
If you’re feeling unsure about your food and wine pairings, opt for focusing on a particular region. Basing your pairings on a region helps add an experiential element to the meal and gives you the opportunity to showcase flavours from your chosen part of the world.
If, for example, you’re serving an Italian dish, such as a pizza or a tomato based pasta, you might want to pair your food with a Chianti wine, from Tuscany.
7. Remember, these are guidelines, not rules
There are no real rules when it comes to pairing food and wine. After all, taste is subjective and you should absolutely follow your own taste buds. The best thing you can do is experiment with different pairings until you find something that ignites your senses.
Which foods don’t pair well with wine?
Whilst we stand by the fact that there is no rules here, if you’re looking for foods to avoid when first starting to experiment with pairings, this list is something to keep in mind:
- Blue cheese
- Brussels sprouts
- Soy sauce
Ultimately, playing with food and wine pairings is a chance to get creative! Don’t let anyone tell you that there are serious rules to stick to and have fun creating new sensations for your senses.