Since the invention of wine, it has been traditional for food and wine to be consumed together. Throughout the centuries, culinary and wine traditions have evolved simultaneously. Chefs and sommeliers work tirelessly in partnership to create cuisine that enhances the flavors of the food and wine so that each component expresses itself individually and in tandem.
So what is food and wine pairing?
Food and wine tasting is more subjective than scientific, which leaves a large breadth of creativity in finding suitable dishes and wines that go together. Our sense of taste plays a very important role in the process. Different foods and wines produce different reactions on our palates. There is a saying, “What grows together, goes together” for example, a Burgundian Pinot Noir will pair perfectly with the local Charolais beef or a very tangy Epoisses cheese. Similarly, a Burgundian Chardonnay is a perfect match with the local Poulet de Bresse (chicken). The best starting point in food and wine pairing is to match food and wine produced in the same region. However, as the food scene has become very internationalized, we are eating many different styles of cuisine worldwide, making this basic rule much harder to follow. Food and wine experts have come to the rescue by creating some very simple, easy-to-follow rules that make the process less complicated.
Simple Rules for Pairing Food and Wine
1) Congruent pairing - A wine that will enhance the food it is paired with.
2) Food and Wine that comes from the same geographical area pair together naturally.
3) Complimentary pairing - when the attributes of the wine and food complement each other.
4) Choose a wine that is flexible and will pair with several different types of foods.
5) The taste and aroma of the wine should be as powerful and intense as that of the food.
6) The texture of the wine and food should match (if the food has a heavy texture then so should the wine).
7) Choose food and wine that mirror or contrast each other in a harmonious manner. A shellfish dish in a rich cream sauce can be contrasted if paired with Champagne which is crisp, sharply tingling, and sleek because of its bubbles, or can be mirrored with a Chardonnay which is also rich and creamy.
8) Never choose a wine that clashes with the food it is paired with.
What Wines Go With What foods?
The list below shows some common successful food and wine pairing (not exhaustive).
What Foods Are Most Challenging to Pair With Wine?
Some foods are much more difficult to pair with wines than others due to their distinct flavor profile, which can cause negative effects if paired with the wrong wine. This does not mean that these foods cannot be matched with wines. It is important to understand the problems that the food presents and find a wine that will either complement or soften the extreme characteristics (such as high acidity) for the perfect match.
It often takes many Sommeliers several years to learn and perfect the art of food and wine pairing, so do not be disappointed if, when you start practicing your food and wine pairing skills, there may be an occasion when the wine and food are not a perfect match. You will learn over time how to easily identify and taste how different components such as bitter, sweet, spice, sour, and fat go together; you can easily decide which wine to pair by understanding the characteristics of the food that you are going to eat. Once you become more confident in your food and wine pairing choices, the sky is the limit! You will be able to create your own unique wine and food combinations confidently. Like our DNA, our palate is unique to each of us, which means that a combination that may be delightful to one person may be repulsive to another. Enjoying wine is all about experimenting, which is also true with food and wine combinations. Bon Appetit!