If you’re just starting out, you’ll find these tried-and-true methods for creating consistently great pairs. That said, as you get more used to different wines, you will become more confident and able to try breaking the rules!
- Wine must be more acidic than food.
- Wine must be sweeter than food.
- The wine should have the same flavor intensity as the food.
- Red wines pair best with intensely flavored meats (e.g. red meat).
- White wines pair best with mildly intense meats (eg fish or chicken).
- Bitter wines (e.g. red wine) are best balanced with fat.
- Wine pairs better with sauces than with meat.
Identify the basic taste
In this day and age, we already know that there are more than 20 different tastes found in food – from basic, including sweet, sour and fatty, to extreme, including spicy, umami and electric. Luckily, you only need to focus on 6 flavors when pairing food and wine: Salty, Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Fat, and Spicy (Piquant).
Basic flavor components in wine
For the most part, wine lacks the three flavors of fatty, spicy, and salty, but has varying degrees of acidity, sweetness, and bitterness. In general, you can group alcohol into 3 different categories:
- Red wine has more bitterness.
- White wines, rosés and sparkling wines are more acidic.
- Sweet wines have more of a sweet taste.
Basic flavor components in food
Simplify a dish down to its basic flavors. For example, baked pasta has 2 main ingredients: fat and salt. Southern barbecue is a bit more complicated and includes fatty, salty, sweet, and spiced (plus a little bit of acid!). Even meat-free dishes can be simplified. For example, a green salad provides acidity and bitterness; Cream of corn brings fat and sweetness.
FOOD: The salad looks paler, but maybe the sauce is balsamic vinegar with high acidity. If the intensity of the dish is not obvious at first, just focus on the strength of each flavor component (acidity, fat, sweetness, etc.).
WINE: Light or dark wine? Here are a few examples:
- Sauvignon Blanc has a light body, but it is more acidic
- Chardonnay has more body, but it’s usually not too sour
- Pinot Noir has a lighter body (for red wines) and it doesn’t have as much tannin (bitter taste).
- Cabernet Sauvignon is fuller and has higher tannins (bitter)
Once you strike a balance with the key flavor components in both the wine and the dish, you can get creative by incorporating more subtle flavors. Here are some examples using variations of mac and cheese:
RED WINE: The idea behind this combination is that the high bitterness (tannin) will be balanced by the salt and fat in the pasta. This balance will leave you with subtle flavors left to pair with cheeses and wines. So, for example, if your baked pasta has smoked gouda in it, you can choose Shiraz that also has smoke in it (in the finish). The smoky flavors combine to create isotopic combinations while the tannins in the wine create a complementary association with the fatty flavors in the dish.
SWEET WHITE WINE: The idea behind this combination is to bring out sweet and savory flavors when combined. For example, a mac and cheese with ham would go well with a zesty white wine with some sweetness like Riesling. The acidity will create an additional Combination with the fat and the sweetness will play the role of the Homogeneous Combination with the ham.
TRUE WINE SYSTEM IN VIETNAM
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