Food and wine pairing – Combine & dine fine

A well-chosen bottle of wine can elevate a simple meal to the status of a special one and skyrocket the special meal to the level of exquisite. But the array of options from near and far is dizzying: there are more types of wine than anyone can be expected to remember. As scary as it sounds, food and wine pairing is not sacral knowledge reserved to high society members and star chefs. Whether you are a passionate cook with years of experience, or just an enthusiastic beginner – you can wow your guests with a harmonious dinner and a perfectly chosen wine simply by following a few rules.

Three rules for expert food and wine pairing

1. Look for balance. Richer foods go with rich wines. A hearty marinated lamb chop is vigorous enough to withstand the power of Cabernet Sauvignon, while toned-down veggies go well with subtler white table wines instead. Learn to distinguish their individual weight and use the simple shortcut: wines with less than 12.5 % alcohol content are normally lighter-bodied, while stronger ones (14 % and up) are heavier.

2. Link similar flavors. A fruity Pinot Grigio or a citrusy Sauvignon Blanc would work particularly well with lemon-based sauces and dressings. An earthy dish, like roasted mushrooms then, begs for an earthy Burgundian Pinot Noir. Don’t worry; you do not have to know all these names by heart – a little bit of internet research can refresh your memory any time.

3. Don’t forget that the bottle needs to warm up and breathe to really unfold its flavor. Aerate it in a decanter for at least an hour. That is, unless you are handling a vintage bottle that may not take prolonged breathing well.

Practical food and wine pairing examples

Let’s talk about the meats: the focal point of many dishes. Dry wines with a lot of tannin (like Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot) go best with red meats. White wines, on the contrary, enhance lighter meats like fish and poultry.

When it comes to other foods, look for regional links if you are unsure: Tuscan Chianti is a naturally good fit for Italian dishes, while quintessentially French meals like beef and wild mushrooms harmonize with Pinot Noir from the Burgundy region.

Lastly, to the match made in heaven: wine and cheese. Take it up a notch by following the rules listed above or simply recreate our examples. Match the intense aged varieties, like Grana Padano with a bold red wine, like Cabernet Sauvignon or Chianti. Funkier or stinky varieties, like blue-vein cheese are balanced by the sweetness of Moscato or Porto.

A concluding note: even the fanciest bottle of wine cannot make you fall in love with an ingredient you wouldn’t normally eat. Similarly, if you dislike dry wine, it might not sweep you of your feet, even if it is expertly match


Photos by Daria Yakovleva & Helena Lopes

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