Food and wine pairing for beginners – Creating pairings

If you have already read my piece on wine characteristics we can move onto flavour profiles, if you haven’t already read it you can find the article here: Food and wine pairing: Wine characteristics. There are six main basic flavour profiles that you can experiment with to creating pairings that are memorable and amazing.

Remember these are the basics, there are obviously some unique and exceptional wines in the world so use this as a guideline when it comes to creating pairings.

  1. Acidity in wine pairs well with fatty and sweet foods.
  2. Fatty foods need either an acidic or high alcohol wine, otherwise the wine will taste flat.
  3. Bitter or tannic wines can be balanced with a sweet food.
  4. Salty shouldn’t compete with acidity in wine. Use sparingly as necessary to keep sharpness in the meal.
  5. Sweet food benefits from a little acidity.
  6. Alcohol can be used to cut through fatty foods or balance a sweet dish.

There are two main ways of creating pairings. You can either use congruent pairings or contrasting pairings. It’s actually pretty simple:

  • A contrasting pairing creates balance by contrasting tastes and flavours.
  • A congruent pairing creates balance by amplifying shared flavour compounds.

Going for complementary flavours is an easy way to pair wine with your food. When you pair this way, you’re matching the basic flavour profiles of the wine with those of the food. For instance match a powerful wine with a rich and savoury dish or a light  wine with an equally delicate dish.

creating pairings

Match creamy with creamy: Pair an oaked Chardonnay with a cheesy pasta dish or a creamy chicken bake.

Match acid with acid: Any food with a high acid level is a perfect match for a high acid wine. Lemon or citrus dishes would do well with a crisp, acidic wine like sauvignon blanc, or a dry chenin blanc.

Match sweet with sweet: When it’s time for dessert you can pair your desserts with a sweet wine like Port or Moscato. You ideally want the wine to be sweeter than the dessert.

Now when it comes to pairing contrasting flavours you need to try and counterbalance the basic flavour profiles of either the dish or the drink. Rich, fatty dishes like steak take the edge off of  tannins (or acidity), making a robust wine seem smoother. Salt, on the other hand, accentuates the tannins of a wine and can make it taste more astringent.

Contrast spicy with sweet: Alcohol intensifies the heat so a heavy wine with spicy flavours when paired with a spicy dish with will set your guests on fire! A fruity or lightly sweet wine like Riesling or pinot gris is much better suited to your Thai curry.

Contrast fat with tannins: When pairing creamy, fatty dishes drink a crisp, acidic wine to cut through the fatty flavours. Try a sparkling wine or sauvignon blanc with your fettuccine alfredo or mac and cheese. They balance well with fat as fat will soften the tannins and bring a smoother feel. Serve a bold cabernet with a nice fatty piece of prime rib.

Now it’s time to put your newfound wine pairing skills to the test. Go grab a bottle of your favourite vino and treat yourself to a fabulous home cooked meal. What’s your favourite food and wine combo? Let me know in the comments. Cheers and bon appétit!

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