FOOD AND WINE PAIRING (The Greatest Love Affair of All Time)



Fabulously fruity, light textured Languedoc wine paired with Pinoy Food, reinterpreted in Atelier 317

I decided to start off my blog by discussing the eternal love affair that is food and wine.

Today, I got tasked to help my husband out by pairing a food menu for his event with wine. I’m happy that people have come to realize that the harmony of food and wine is essential to the enjoyment of one’s dining experience. A clash in pairing can be quite a horrific experience, while the best ones come with a free Hallelujah chorus in the background with every sip and bite.

For the everyman, however, the options can be dizzying, and the ability to achieve that heavenly match seems, well… Greek. So what are good tips to remember when pairing food with wine? Here are some ideas to help you save time choosing that perfect wine from the restaurant menu (which leaves you more time to appreciate your date), or the wine shop:

1) Colour – Red meat goes with red wine, white meat goes with white wine. Plain and simple, until you go into poultry: Remember that there are red meat parts in your Thanksgiving turkey, so best to pair it with “Tannin”, or what is a gentler red. More on that later.

2) Country – Now that you’ve excluded an entire colour family from your option, one way to further narrow down your selection is to match the country the wine came from with the food’s country of origin. This is true for dishes that are pretty easy to figure out: Chilean Sea Bass (Chile), Australian Lamb Chops (Australia), USDA Steak… Well, you get the picture. You can skip this option for dishes that have no wines indigenous to their country (Thai food, Filipino food, Japanese food…)

3) Mirroring – The quintessential rule of thumb is that the characteristics of the wine should reflect that of the food, and vice versa.
For example, a bold flavoured wine will go wonderfully with rich food, cream based sauces will go really well with creamy wines.
This is where your tannin will come in: TANNIN is that cottony sensation (not a taste) that you would feel on your gums. When a wine is highly tannic (or has high levels of tannin), the more this drying sensation will be felt on your gums. A classic high tannin varietal is a Cabernet Sauvignon, which pairs well with the meaty, rich flavour of steak.
A cream based sauce on fish would go famously with a Chardonnay, mirroring the classic buttery taste of the Chardonnay with the sauce. Similarly, an affordable Chardonnay is a great companion with buttered popcorn while enjoying that classic DVD at home. The dark chocolate taste of a Carmenere is fantastic with dark chocolate.
You can also mirror the quality of the wine with the food. An easy way to determine quality without having to research is to look at the price tag. Higher quality wines are normally priced higher, as is food. You should consider pairing an Osso Bucco with a good Chianti Reserva, and a simple roast chicken with a California Merlot.

5) Pair spicy food with light, refreshing, off-dry to sweet wines – It makes sense, because if you think about it: The first thing you grab after accidentally biting into a piece of chilli in your sisig is a REFRESHING beer, or SWEET juice, and even better, SWEET and REFRESHING soda. Wine pretty much operates in the same manner. It’s probably a bad idea to grab a highly tannic red wine when you’ve burned your mouth off with that Indian food.
I always recommend a light Riesling with Thai food. The wine is refreshing enough to quench that spice they’ve got going on, yet not overpowering to the point of drowning out the delicate flavours of your Pad Thai.

6) Opt for wines sweeter than the dessert – Wines pretty much work in the same manner as a multiple course meal: You’d want salty, dry food for your appetizer, rich food for your main course, and sweets for dessert. Having a sweeter wine highlights the characteristics of the dessert. A good example is a Sauternes with Creme Brulee.
Trivia: The sweet taste on our tongue sends a signal to our brain to stop eating. So for those on a diet, don’t ignore that chocolate bar if you’re feeling unusually hungry. Just remember to eat in moderation and exercise.

7) Lastly, BE ADVENTUROUS! You’ll never know what pairings will go well until you’ve tried. Do a bit of research and explore, but do not be afraid. After a visit to Burgundy, I discovered that the light, berry flavours of a Pinot Noir go well with Sushi. An old friend found that Lechon goes just as well with this wine. I also realized that it is no accident that the harmony of dried apricots and stinky cheese often served together is reflected in the pairing of a Sauternes and blue cheese (Sauternes has notes of dried apricot as well).

I hope this helps. Share pairings that you’ve found delightful. Cheers!

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