How to Pair Food and Wine
Whether it’s steak, salad, or pizza, a great wine can enhance any dish. Food and wine pairing, although intimidating to many, can be a fun way to experiment with and learn about wines. The science behind food and wine pairing rests on flavors and tastes. Just like the symbiotic relationship between dessert and coffee, there are certain pairings that just make more sense. But outside of this science, or the general guidelines of food and wine pairing, exists room for freedom, experimentation, and preference. This is the art of pairing. Donna Sachs, owner and winemaker at River Bend Vineyard and Winery tells her customers that the primary guideline to follow when pairing is to drink what you like. If you only like one kind of wine, go ahead and drink it with anything. The purpose of food and wine pairing is to enhance the meal and liking the wine is integral to this.
For those who like different varieties of wine, Sachs has three recommendations to consider when pairing food and wine.
Food and wine should complement each other. The food should never overpower the wine and the wine should never overpower the food. The most basic guideline is light food with light wine and heavy food with heavy wine. For example, whites go best with fish or poultry and reds with beef or hearty meals. To go a little further, you could explore acidity, tannins, flavors or dryness. For example, acidic wines go well with creamy sauces and red wine with cheese because of the tannins. Sweet, non-acidic wines are better with appetizers or spicy dishes. Dessert wines are best by themselves or with bitter dark chocolate or sharp cheese.
Don’t worry about doing it right, being correct or following the rules. Drink what you like and have fun with it. If you think it works well together, it works well together. If you are going to a party and want to bring wine, one suggestion is to bring one white and one red so that you cover all the bases.
Be mindful and trust yourself. This is where the mindfulness of pairing comes in. Sachs often has her customers sample food and wine together and asks them to become curious about what they are tasting and experiencing. The simple act of slowly eating, mindfully drinking and paying attention to those sensations can open up new experiences. Culturally, we don’t take the time to savor our food or drink. The beauty of food and wine pairing comes when you mindfully eat, mindfully drink and observe how the two work together. Another mindfulness exercise includes noticing what subtle flavors are in the wine. The wine could taste smoky, fruity, or jammy with notes of citrus, coffee, berry or other flavors. Beginning to notice these will help hone in on the essence of the wine and knowing better how to pair it with food.
The more you drink and pay attention, the easier food and wine pairing will become. Have fun with it, don’t be intimidated and at the end of the day, drink what you like.