4 minutes read
Pairing food & wine is a though job. It’s all about balancing the flavour components in the food with the one in the wine. When done right, the wine will accompany the food in creating & elevating the tasting experience. Bear in mind though that each persons’ palate is unique, whereby some love a full body, high in tannins wine & some dislike them.
Basically, your tongue can pick-up the following flavour components in food. Some are obvious, other less likely: sweetness, sour, salt, bitterness, umami, heat & fat. When wine needs to be paired, those components needs to be balanced with the flavours in the wine.
Imagine eating a sweet dessert. The dessert will coat your mouth & tongue with a sweet flavour. If you then start sipping a wine that has a high level of tannins, acids or alcohol, you will even taste more tannins, acids or alcohol, as your tongue isn’t used to all those other bold flavours.
On the other side, if the wine isn’t sweet, fruity or doesn’t have enough body, the overall taste will be out of balance & will result in a bland tasting experience.
Match with wines that has a higher level of sweetness than the food.
Imagine eating a ceviche sprinkled with lemon juice. The ceviche will coat your mouth & tongue with a sour taste. If you then start drinking wine that has high levels of sweetness & fruity flavours & has a good body, those flavours will be hitting you even harder, as your tongue isn’t used to those.
On the other hand, wines that have not enough acidity in them will result in an out-of-balance taste that will taste dull & boring.
Match with wines that has a higher level of acidity than the food.
Imagine eating a gourmet double cheeseburger topped with bacon. The cheeseburger will you’re your mouth & tongue with a salty flavour. If you then order a wine with body, the wine will taste even bigger, as your tongue needs to adapt to that new flavour.
On the other side, if the wine doesn’t have a decent level of bitter flavours coming from the tannins plus acidity in the wine, the taste of the wine can hardly be tasted, as it can’t box up against the salty flavours of the food.
Match with wines that has a higher level of tannins & acidity than the food.
Imagine the taste of a black tea. The black tea will coat your mouth with a bitter taste. If you then drink wine with a high level of tannins & acidity, the bitter taste will double up. I must say that this greatly depends from person to person, as some like a strong coffee (high bitter level) & some don’t.
On the other side, wine with a good level of sweetness & fruitiness, will level the overall tasting experience, as the bold bitter flavours in the food will be balanced by the sweet & fruitiness in the wine.
Match with wines that has a decent level of sweetness & fruitiness.
Umami is a savoury/meaty flavour. Umami in food is often accompanied with salt, like a sandwich topped with Italian cured meats. There is also food with an umami without the salt component, like mushrooms or asparagus. Imagine eating that sandwich. The sandwich will coat your mouth & tongue with the umami taste. Even though the salt will balance it a bit, but wine high in tannins, acidity & alcohol, will taste even more so.
In contrast, wine without a decent level of sweetness, fruitiness or body, will result in an unbalanced bland tasting experience.
Match with wines that has fruity flavours, but has a lower level of tannins.
Heat in food comes from the use of chili. Imagine eating a spicy curry. The curry will coat your mouth & tongue with the heat of the chili. Wine that is high in tannins, acidity or alcohol will create an even higher ‘’burning’’ feeling.
On the other side, wine with not enough level of sweetness, body or fruit will not weigh-up nor control the ‘’burning’’, resulting in an out-of-balance still unpleasant ‘’burning’’ mouthfeel.
Match with wines that have low levels of alcohol, tannins & acidity, but high levels of sweetness & fruitiness.
Imagine eating a luscious Rib-Eye. The fat from the Rib-Eye will coat your mouth & tongue with fatty. Wines with low levels of tannins, acidity & light body has no match against the texture & fat of the Rib-Eye, creating an unbalanced tasting experience.
Match with wines that have a high level of tannins & acidity, that will cut through the fat.