Ever ate something really spicy then washed it down with a nice warm Coke?
I can still painfully remember my first childhood food and drink pairing lesson. Hmm…guess this explains why I hated Chemistry.
In reality, not everything goes well together, regardless of how much you might love it!
Making an unwise food and drink pairing decision will impact the overall taste and flavor experience of your meal.
This being said, who am I to tell you which wine to pair with your meal?? Drink what you like, when you like, is probably the first lesson you’ll learn from anyone that knows anything about wine. Can’t say I disagree, but like with anything in life, a few common sense guidelines never hurt. Hey, it’s why we don’t wear our pajamas to work…right? Right?
SO HELP ME ALREADY?!
Firstly, start thinking about wine like food…
Still with me?
Enter Acids and Tannins…
What are Acids?
Acids are important components of winemaking that influence: color, balance, taste and preservation. They add sharpness to a wine’s flavor and can be described as that prickly, mouthwatering sensation you feel on your tongue whenever you drink wine. Kinda zingy and tart, like sucking on lemon, or lime.
A wine with too much acidity will taste excessively sour and sharp. A wine with too little acidity will taste flabby and flat, with less defined flavor.
What are Tannins?
In winemaking, tannins are natural chemical compounds found in grape skins, stems, seeds and even the wine barrel itself, particularly if it’s a new one. Tannins affect the color, texture, structure and preservation of a wine. How can you identify them? Think that pleasantly bitter, drying, puckering feeling that rolls down the middle of your tongue almost coating your mouth when you drink wine. Similar in sensation to what you experience when drinking tea that’s been steeped for way too long.
WHY SHOULD I CARE ABOUT TANNINS AND ACIDS IN WINE PAIRING?
Pairing Tip #1: Acids love Acid
When it comes to pairing, try the ‘Acids love acid’ theory as a first rule of thumb. If you think a squeeze of lemon, or lime would take a dish to the next level i.e. Roasted snapper – it’s very likely that dish will pair well with a wine that is more on the acidic side. Again, acids love acid.
Pairing Tip #2: Tannins love fat
As a second rule of thumb, try the ‘Tannins love fat’ theory. If a dish has some fat i.e. Rib-eye steak, it’s very likely it will pair well with a wine that is more on the tannic side. Why? Because fats help balance and soften tannins. Easy right?
So, if you’ve got fat – pair with wines that have higher tannic levels!
Here are some other great pairing rules of thumb!
OTHER PAIRING RULES OF THUMB
Pairing Tip #3: Dominant Flavor is King
Whites with fish; reds with meat? We’ve all heard this at some point. It’s not a great tip. Why? Because we rarely just eat meat, or fish without some form of preparation: sauces, stews, stir-fries, casseroles etc…You need to factor in the overall dominant flavor of the dish as a whole, and not just it’s main meat, or vegetable component.
Pairing Tip #4: Spicy loves Sugar
For anyone that knows food and loves to cook, this one is a bit of a no-brainer. When something is spicy, we can temper and mellow those flames with sugar. Same principle would apply to wine pairing. Go for a slightly sweeter wine with those hot and spicy dishes.
Pairing Tip #5: Sweet loves Sweeter
Lastly, when it comes to deserts, which are generally sweet, go for a wine that is even sweeter. It will greatly enhance the richness and flavor of the dish and the wine!