The fact is, most wines are produced as an accompaniment to food, and there are several established guidelines for matching wine with the food the correct way in order to ensure some success. Originally, different wine styles evolved to compliment the cuisine of a region, so this can be a helpful starting point for finding the right wine and food combination. Just keep in mind that there is no single wine that must be consumed with a particular dish, but some are clearly better than others.
If you want to get a good balance, it is necessary to analyze the basic parts of the wine and the food. The idea is to try to balance these two things. You don’t want the food or the wine to overpower the other. The main elements to consider are:
- Match the weight/richness of the food and the body of the wine.
- Match the flavour intensity of the food and that of the wine.
- Match acidic foods with high-acid wines
- Match sweet foods with sweet wines.
- Avoid combining oily or very salty foods with high tannin red wines.
The following guidelines can help avoid food and wine clashes:
- Pair chewy type meat with tannic wines.
- Pair Salty foods with sweet or high acid wines.
- Pair fatty and oily food with high acid wines.
- Match or contrast flavour characteristics of the food and the wine.
Weight/Richness of the Food and Wine
The first thing to do and the most important, is to match the weight of the food and the wine. Rich and heavyweight foods need a full-bodied wine. So you would want to have meats like game, roast meats and red meat casseroles with powerful red wines, although, it is the body of the wine that matters, not the color or flavour so much here. Lighter food like white meat or fish are complimented more by delicate wines. Oh, and don’t forgot the sauce! A rich and creamy sauce will need a wine of sufficient body to match the food and flavours that will complement the smooth creamy, buttery taste.
After weight, flavour is the next most important component on the list. Weight and flavour are not the same. Like, a plate of boiled rice is heavy but it has a light taste. Wine works the same way. Foods that have been steamed gently require a lighter flavoured wine than those that have been roasted as roasting adds additional flavor to the dish.
Something stewed or cooked slowly, like this Ragu sauce and Papperdelle I love to cook in cold weather, has tons of flavour in every bite and its necessary to match this with a very complex and flavourful wine.
Next we move on to….
Acidity in the Food and Wine.
First off, acidity is not necessarily a bad thing. As we discussed in Wine 101: Tasting and Evaluating the acidity in wine is what makes it refreshing and crisp. Sour flavours in food can make wine taste less acidic and hence, less refreshing and vibrant. So, acidic foods need to be matched with accompanying wines. Tomatoes, lemons, pineapples, apples and vinegar are all high in acidity. One of the big points in Italian cuisine, and Italian red wine is the acidity. It is quite high. Italian dishes, many of them, are dominated by tomatoes and olive oil and other acidic ingredients like vinegar and lemons. Hence, wines that go well with Italian, are usually quite acidic.
Sweetness in the Food and Wine.
Dry wines can seem tart sand over-acidic when consumed with any food with a degree of sweetness. Sweet food is bext with wine which has a similiar or greater degree of sweetness. The sweeter the food, the sweeter the wine should be.
Oil, Salt and Tannins
Tannin in combination with really oily fish can produce a very unpleasant metallic taste, so the general rule is to avoid red wines with fish. However, low tannin reds are OK with meaty fish.
Chewy Meat and Tannins
Tannin in Red wines reacts with the protein. Foods with a high protein content, particularly rare red meat, will soften the effects of the tannin on the palate. This is the reason that high tannin grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah or Shiraz, go well with roast meats, stews and steaks.
I suppose these guidelines should help you avoid truly disastrous combinations , but individual taste is the final consideration. experimentation is key!
If you feel like you need more information or just have “caught the wine bug” like me, the following is a very decent book exploring the connections and relationships between food and wine all over the world.