Few of life’s great pleasures compare to enjoying fabulous food with a perfectly paired glass of wine. But unless you’re a sommelier or avid wine enthusiast, how do you go about making your own harmonious match?
Just as you add citrus to avocado (acid to cut through rich/creaminess), or a pinch of salt in cake (enhance other flavours, take edge off sweetness) the wines you pair with your menus should complement and improve the food. While of course there are nuances and complexities to food and wine pairing, there are some fundamental rules which you can follow:
1. Match acid with acid. A tart plate of food needs a wine that can stand up to it, like a Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling or something less known like Vermentino or Grüner Veltliner.
2. Similar to the above, an intensely flavoured dish needs a wine with equal intensity to stop one or the other tasting flat. For example, delicate fish dishes go well with young Chablis, whereas a meaty boeuf bourguignon when eaten with a slightly-aged, earthy red Burgundy (made from Pinot Noir) makes for hedonistic heaven.
3. Sweet desserts require wines with high acidity and equal sweetness to ensure that neither dominate. Tarte tatin and a Hungarian Tokaji may sound overwhelmingly sickly, but it balances out with their matched sugar levels and high levels of acidity.
4. Pair regional dishes with regional wines. It makes sense when you think that you are simply putting together native flavours born to work in harmony. Having a Sicilian theme for your wedding breakfast? Try an Etna Bianco (hailing from the east coast of Sicily) with the fresh fish the island is so famous for.
5. Meat doesn’t always mean red. Lighter meats like chicken and pork are often delicious with a slightly fatter white such as many Chardonnays or southern French whites made from Grenache Blanc and Marsanne. This is due to their weightier texture and silkiness.
6. If your dish is quite sauce heavy, make that your pairing focus over, for example, the meat it’s accompanying. a pork main course with a sweet and rich red wine sauce needs an equally intense red wine to accompany it. If the same pork however is served with a creamy sauce, pick a high acid white wine to cut through the creaminess.
7. Spiced dishes are tempered by sweeter wines (note: this doesn’t mean the wine is sweet like a dessert wine. just that it gives the impression of slight sweetness like some off-dry Rieslings). Once you’ve tried an off-dry Vouvray from the Loire Valley with a spiced Thai curry you’ll never look back.
8. Finally, if in doubt, go for something light. at a wedding, fresh and easy-drinking wines are a safe bet. Guests are happy in the knowledge they’ll last throughout a day and night of celebrating without feeling heavy, and your job to make a selection is made that bit easier.
But our parting word is the most important: pick the wine that you like – it’s your day after all.