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Thursday, May 20, 2010
For decades conventional wisdom dictated that certain wine should be consumed with certain foods. You’ve probably heard that white wine should only be served with chicken and fish and red wine with meat. While this viewpoint has relaxed a little in recent times one thing still holds true, certain combinations do work better than others. The trick is finding combinations that suit you and your palate.
Here’s a few simple things to remember when pairing wine with food.
1. Find the right balance
The texture and flavours of the food to be served are probably the best indicators for choosing a matching wine. For example, rich, hearty dishes tend to favour full bodied wines like Shiraz, Chardonnay or Merlot, while fruit or cheese dishes tend to work best with a Riesling or Pinot Grigio. As a rule heavy tends to go with heavy and light tends to go with light. Also keep in mind that strong flavours like onions, garlic and chili can really alter our perception of a wine.
2. Think about alcohol content
Wines with a high alcohol content tend to pair poorly with spicy foods because the level of alcohol creates a warmth that can be unpleasant. If you’re going to choose a high alcoholic wine (say 12.5% and over) the best meals to serve it with are chargrilled steaks, meaty fish like tuna and well matured sharp cheeses.
3. Seasoning makes a difference
A little bit of extra seasoning can change a meal to better suit a wine.
- Fresh pepper can make a heavily tannic wine taste less tannic.
- A little vinegar or lemon juice will sharpen a dish and mellow a more acidic wine.
- Salt makes sweet wines taste sweeter and it also suppresses bitterness.
- An overly sweet dish can enhance the bitterness of some wines making it stronger and drier.
4. What about desert?
A simple rule to remember when serving a wine with desert is that the wine should be sweeter. If it were the other way around the wine might end up tasting tart or weak.
Finding a wine that works with a meal can take a bit of trial and error but experimenting with different flavour combinations is a lot of fun. Wine is a really individual thing. A combination that someone else has raved about may not appeal to you because our palates are different. While classic pairings will always work well you should develop and learn to trust your own judgement. Find a wine and meal you enjoy and you’ll create your own classic pair.
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