There are not many people who don’t like either wine or good food and most people like both! The problem comes with a variety of complex and conflicting advice in how best to enjoy them together.
With such a range of different wines from heavy reds to light refreshing sparkling wines using a variety of different grapes and in some cases different fruits and ingredients for example our very own elderflower sparkling wine it is almost impossible to begin linking them to all the different food options. Hopefully with some of the below tips we can make it a little less daunting.
Everyone’s palate is unique to them but there are common tastes across all of them. The dominant ones being:
- Bitter, think dark chocolate, coffee and of course tonic water
- Sweet, anything that has sugar in it from Strawberries and bananas to honey and milk chocolate
- Acidic, this includes fruits from the citrus family ie lemons and oranges as well as fermented products like vinegar
- Spicy, most commonly this would be chillies but includes other spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves
- Salty, similar to sweet this is present as a result of seasoning in most dishes as opposed to it naturally occurring in a food
- Savoury or Umami, think cheeses, meats and a wide range of other food types including soy sauce, tomatoes and beans.
Some foods in their raw form can cover a couple of these flavours for example an orange is both sweet and acidic or parmesan cheese has both savoury and salty flavours.
When chefs prepare a dish they are using the above tastes from ingredients to mix and match things together to create a tasty meal. So when pairing your wine with food you should be thinking along the same lines.
Of the above tastes the main three that appear in wine are acidity, sweetness and bitterness. How they arise in each wine will depend on a wide variety of factors. Typically in red wine bitterness is the dominant area, while in a white, rose and sparkling sweetness and acidity are the dominant tastes.
With sparkling wine, white and rose wines their sweetness is referred to by their dryness. The dryer a wine the more the other tastes are apparent specifically the acidity and any bitterness.
A red can also vary in the bitterness and sweetness it offers.
How to match wine to food
The first step would be to think about what the food is you’re having and where it fits into the above classic flavour profiles. For example, a risotto could be both savoury, salty and acidic if you are using lemon juice or balsamic in it, it could also be bitter if you are using a lot of green salad leaves like rocket.
Once you know the key taste profiles of your dish you can begin to think about how that relates to your wine options. The main thing you are looking to do is to taste your wine to see which of the three categories of bitter, sweet and acidic is most strongly represented. Then think about if that matches the dish in question.
To help with matching the below are some general tips that should help:
- The wines should have the same flavour intensity as the food
- Dry wines pair well with salty foods
- Fruitier wines (sweetness) go well with cheese
- Sparkling wines are more versatile than you think and can be paired with a main course.
- With old world (French, Italian etc) wines you should look at pairing the wine and the regions food together as they have been developed side by side and will share the same taste profiles.
- You should match the wine with the sauce of your meal as opposed to the content as the sauce will likely be the strongest flavour
It probably goes without saying but you should be matching a wine you actually like with your food.
Ultimately if you’re enjoying your food and wine together that is the important thing regardless of what anyone else suggests on how you should eat and drink it.