The art of pairing food and wine is the key to a successful meal and a passport to an amazing gastronomic experience. But most people tend to shy away from the experience, slightly intimidated by the variety of wines out there, their fanciful names, and the endless combinations they will have to remember.
However, the guidelines for pairing wine are quite simple and, contrary to popular belief, it’s really not rocket science. Once you understand the basics, it’s smooth sailing after that. Eventually, you may want to go beyond the rules and experiment, resulting in some unusual and spectacular matches that improve the flavors of both the wine and the food. But, if you’re something of a beginner, stick to some basic rules for successful pairing experiences.
When making a selection, the most important thing you should consider is the weight of both the food and the wine. Both are meant to be partners, complementing each other. Neither should overwhelm the other.
But, let’s back up a little – what exactly is weight?
For the food, the weight is determined by the sauce and cooking method used to prepare the dish. For instance, a salad with vinaigrette dressing will be lighter than one that has a blue cheese dressing. Similarly steamed fish or grilled chicken will be lighter than their fried counterpart.
With wines, however, the distinction is less straightforward. A variety of factors go into determining its weight, such as color, grapes used, wine-making technique, the climate of the region. To make things easier on yourself, remember this simple rule – wines that have less than 12 percent alcohol tend to be lighter and those that have 14 percent alcohol, or more, are considered heavier. So check the label for alcohol percentage, if you’re in a bit of a quandary.
Now that you know what weight is, here’s the formula for pairing food and wine – like calls to like. Hearty food goes with hearty wines and lighter food goes with lighter wine. So, a Cabernet Sauvignon will go beautifully with lamb chops since both are as vigorous as each other. And if you’ve ordered poached fish, go in for a light Soave because they’re both equally subtle and delicate.
That was easy, wasn’t it – and it’s a great way to start your love story with wines. Don’t let anyone tell you that wine pairing is complicated. While there’s always an element of personal preference involved, some wines just happen to pair well with some dishes. Start with some straightforward pairings and work your way towards the more complicated ones, should you feel like it. But that’s in the future. Baby steps for now and you’ll do just fine.