People think that food and wine pairing is always the same: white wine with fish and red wine with meat. First of all, get that idea out of your head!
Now don’t get me wrong, there are certain white wines that go best with fish and certain red wines that go best with meat. But that’s not always the case.
Food and wine pairing is a combination of creativity and science. It’s pretty cool how certain food components can make wines taste super gross or super amazing.
When determining which wine to pair with your meal, you need to ask yourself: what are the main flavors of the dish? Chicken is chicken…but rosemary chicken is very different from Cajun chicken. Rosemary chicken is soft with a hint of earthiness. Cajun chicken is spicy with a hint of sweet and maybe is a little savory. These are the most important things to think about when deciding how to pair food and wine.
The main components that you need to know of in a wine are ACID, TANNIN, and SUGAR. These will help you determine which flavors match your food.
The main components that you need to know of in a meal are ACID, FAT, SUGAR, and flavor.
Now how do you use that? Well let’s take a nice juicy New York steak for example. What is going to be in that? A lot of fat right? Something big and thick like that is going to need a wine that will compliment the food, but also won’t get lost in the flavor of the steak which is savory, salty, and a little sweet. You will need a wine that best reacts with the fattiness of the meal. Therefore, you need a wine that has higher acid, higher tannin and maybe even higher sugar. Some of the best wines for that meal could be Napa Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot (high in tannin and acid), or something completely different like Alsatian Riesling (high in acid and sugar). Both of those wines will create very different flavors. One compliments it by melting the fats with the tannin and acid. The other one contrasts it by providing citrus and sugar to cleanse your palate. Neat right? I bet you’ve never had a piece of red meat with a white wine. Try it! They do it in Europe, in Alsace.
Let’s do another example. Say you’re having a delicious plate of pesto encrusted halibut. In that meal we must compliment the strong flavor pesto; a green and full-fat delicious sauce. We have a few options here, but first we must remember what the components are: it’s acid, with the main flavor being green, salty and earthy. So we want a wine that is going to compliment both the acid on the dish and the greenness but not overpower it. I would recommend a Chablis. Chablis is an area in eastern France known for delicious Chardonnay that is both high in acid and quite mineral in flavor. I think that would very much compliment the pesto (high acid, mineral complimenting the greenness). On the other hand, I would also recommend a Red Burgundy, Pinot Noir. This grape is quite high in acid and usually has a slightly earthy flavor without being a full-bodied red wine. This wine would complement the pesto by emphasizing the delicious flavors of parsley and cilantro with the earthy undertones of this wine! The raspberry flavor will serve as a nice finish.
And that’s how you pair wine. There are a few exceptions however specifically with eggs and artichokes. These are types of foods that make a wine taste sweeter than it is. The best pair for these is something already sweet so you expect it. For example, try Champagne! Something that has residual sugar and enough acid to block out it tasting too sweet.
If you have more wine and food pairing questions, feel free to reach out via the contact page.