Wine and Food Pairing
First things first: there are no rules.
wine with meat, white with fish.” Forget “driest first, sweetest last.” These
are but advice. What matters is what delights the diner. If that is a £100
bottle of Sauternes with their game casserole, who am I to argue? If it’s dry
Cava with a cream cake that pleases your palate, go ahead; enjoy. I can
describe to you the effect a certain wine might have on the taste of a certain
food, or I can tell you what has pleased many of my guests, but I can’t tell
you with certainty what you will enjoy. So play with your matches. Use my
suggestions as a springboard, but try out other combinations and see how your palate responds.
Let’s think about how dry or sweet a wine is, and how much sugar there might be in the dish you want to serve with it. Our palate gets used to a taste experience very quickly, so a sweeter wine will make any acidity or saltiness in the food stand right out. In the same way, sweet food will make dry wine seem much sharper than savoury food will. The same is true the other way, of course: salty food like cheese or anchovies with make the fruitiness stand out in a wine; dry wines can really enhance delicate flavours like sole or interesting vegetables like your home-grown salads. Sweet flavours tend to linger in the mouth longer, and this is the reason we’re often advised to drink drier wines before sweeter ones, but I have enjoyed many meals that paired a medium-sweet German riesling with a cheese & nut salad starter. Another effect sweetness has is to turn down the heat in chillies and spices. You might want to consider a German or Alsace wine with a Thai red curry. A dry wine would enhance the heat. The choice is yours, of course - how hot do you like it?
Finally, and this is the hardest point to define, remember
that I have said in other blog posts and articles that serving food in courses is like telling a
story? Your wines need to be part of that story. Sometimes, it’s best that the
wines take a back seat. If you’ve got a star dish to show off, you might want
to avoid a showy wine. If the dish has lots of flavours going on (or "all the trimmings"), I’d suggest
you pair it with a fairly simple wine, so you’re not adding even more flavours.
Some wines – young reds, sparkling whites – feel innately “frivolous,” whereas
older wines and fuller bodied ones have a “seriousness” about them that might
not suit the occasion or the feel of the dish. Be bold, then, and break the
supposed rules. It’s your dinner, your stage on which to dance. Be creative and
playful, and I’d love to know what combinations you discover in the process.
|Sometimes, a beer can be the best "wine" match!
This post is adapted from an article I originally wrote for The Yorkshire Times.