How To: Pair Wine and Food
A few weeks ago I got an email from a wonder man I had met at IFBC in November. He works withDon Sebastiani & Son's Wine Company, and asked if he could send over a shipment of wine along with perfectly paired recipes.
First, who says no to that?
Secondly, I realized how little I actually know about food and wine parring. This was more than an opportunity for free wine, this was an opportunity for a free education.
Learning not just how to pair wine, but why. What the flavors do to each other and how the wrong pairing can change the dish you took so much time making.
I spent a week with these wines, cooking and pairing. Some of the recipes I followed nearly exactly (a very rare occurrence in my life) and some I changed completely while still keeping the integrity of the pairing. By the end of the week I was able to see that wine is not just something to drink with your meal, but wine functions as an additional ingredient to your dish.
Wine changes the way your food tastes. This can be a great thing, making the flavors more intense, brighter and more delicious. This can also be a terrible thing, making the spicy flavors hotter than you want, bringing out flavors you never intended to highlight. What you drink with your meal alters the experience you have, knowing how to do it correctly gives you the control.
After I knew the basics of food and wine pairing, I began to see not only the importance of it but how easy it can be. I was already pairing food and drinks without realizing it, wanting a cup of coffee with my chocolate cake and a lemony iced tea with my Caesar salad. The principals are the same.
This week I’ll be posting the food and wine pairings, as well as why these foods are paired. Each of the dishes featured in the photos in this post will be discussed. Stick around and we will all get a crash course in food and wine pairings, but first, here are the Rules:
Rule one: Acid needs acid
Any food with a high acid level, or something you just want to squeeze a lemon onto, is perfect match for high acid wine. If you are serving Chicken Picatta, or pasta with tomato sauce, opt for a Barolo, Sauvignon Blanc or Chianti. Serving a high acid wine with a meal like this, and you will bring out the citrus notes of your food.
Rule Two: Tannins Need Fat
First of all, what IS a tannin? Tannins are the astringent component in red wine that give it structure. This is what can cause that bitter, pucker feeling in the back of your throat. This needs fat for balance, fat will soften the tannins and bring a smoother feel. Serve a bold Cabernet with a nice fatty piece of Prime Rib.
Rule Three: Fish Goes with Acid, Not With Tannins
We have all heard the old rule of: White Wine for White Meat, Red Wine for Red Meat. The reason for that is acid and tannins, not color. If you are serving fish, think of the wine like a you would a squeeze of lemon on top (high acid wine) rather than a sprinkle of cheese (tannin heavy red wine).
Rule Four: Pair Wine With Dominant Flavor, Not Necessarily The Meat
This is another reason to ignore the old rule White for White, Red for Red. Just because you have pork on your plate, doesn’t mean that is the flavor that will stick around. Is that pork being served in a robust red sauce? Or is that beef being served with a creamy lemon sauce? If the sauce on your plate is the dominant flavor, pair to that, not the meat.
Rule Five: Spice Needs Sugar
This is the best example of wine paring going awry. Serving a super spicy dish with a high alcohol, tannin heavy wine with will set your guests on fire. Two great elements producing a catastrophe combination when mixed. Alcohol intensifies the heat. If however, you cooked a dish that is much more mellow that you have intended, pair with one of those high tannin, high alcohol wines to crank up the heat. But, for the most part, you want to stick with a sweeter, low alcohol wine. Even if you don’t like sweeter wines, you will be surprised at how those sugars are altered with introduction of the heat. Try a Gewürztraminer or a Riesling.
Rule Six: Sweet Needs Sweeter
You want the wine to be sweeter than the dessert. Even if you are not drawn to the sweeter wines, taking a sip of a rich, sweet port before, and after, a bit of a dense fudgy cake completely transforms the flavors of both elements.