What is Involved in Food and Wine Pairing?

Although there is no fixed set of rules when pairing wine with food, there are a few customary guidelines that can assist in creating a pleasant match. The first rule of thumb is that a number of foods will make a complimentary pairing with a particular wine, and vice versa. As the global market expands, more grape varieties are grown in more parts of the world, leading to a constant change in the flavors and characteristics of wines. Likewise, the constant influence of new cuisine styles creates evolving flavors in foods. As these changes take place, old rules for pairing wine gradually become passé. And, of course, each person has a different palate, so some might find a particular pairing spectacular, while others find the same pairing disgusting.

The best method to decipher whether a wine and a food pair well is to test the pairing yourself! Start with a clean palate. This can be accomplished by taking a few sips of unflavored sparkling water, or by eating an unsalted cracker. Do not brush your teeth! Next take a sip of the wine to see what it tastes like on its own. Then take a small bite of the food. Before swallowing the food take another small sip of wine. If an unpleasant taste occurs, this is not a good pairing. The wine should bring out the flavors of the food, and vice versa. Swallow, and then take another sip of the wine. The wine should taste more complex, and have more character than the first sip.

Basic ground rules are as follows; drink white wine with fish and white meat, and drink red wine with game and red meat. Drink lighter wines before heavier wines, and drink dry wines before sweet wines. In most cases, a tannic red does not pair well with fish, because it creates a metallic taste. But a red wine with low tannins, such as a mellow pinot noir, can pair excellently with Salmon, or fish served in a red sauce. Steak can often overpower a mild white. A full-bodied, oaky Chardonnay, however, can stand up to and compliment lean red meat.

There is more to consider when pairing wine and food than the type of meat. Other food characteristics include the weight of the dish, the ingredients, and the preparation. Roasting, whether veggies or meat, creates a heavier meal, as does the use of sauces or marinades. Fresh foods like salads and stir-fry are lighter. The appropriate wine for these foods will reflect the weight of the dish.

Intensity of flavor is another factor to consider when creating a complimentary pairing. For example, a light-but-spicy dish such as curried vegetables would pair well with an acidic, fruity white, like a Sauvignon blanc, or a Riesling. A glaze or a reduction sauce lends a strong, concentrated flavor, and would pair best with a meaty red, like a Syrah, rather than a mellow Merlot.

Also consider the acidity and sweetness of the wine and the food, and select pairs that create a balance. If the wine does not meet acidity and sweetness of the food, the wine will likely fall flat. Generally, white wine pairs better with acidic food than red wine. The tannin in red wine is usually uncomplimentary to acidic foods.

Although the general idea is to match the characteristics of a wine with those of the food to create a balance, there are some cases in which the counterbalancing of wine and food can create a suited pairing. The richness of duck might be pleasantly toned down by a crisp white. Perhaps the most important reminder is to consider wine pairing an amenable art. The suggestions made here are guidelines, not mandates. Individual preferences will determine whether a pairing is truly suitable.


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Also important is to pair wine with food to protect esophagus from any damage the alcohol may cause.

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