Finding the perfect wine to match with a certain dish is not always a simple feat without the guidance of an expert. Yet searching for that particular bottle, which once uncorked is capable of bringing out that exquisite balance of flavors, is something which can be learned. The key is to find that unique harmony for the palate, an objective which must take into consideration an ideal fusion between the elements of the food and those of the wine to be served with it. Without a doubt, the sweet nectar of Bacchus can exalt the flavors of any dish we eat, but in order to create this perfect matrimony it is absolutely necessary that neither the food nor the wine dominate one over the other. Knowing how to choose the best wine to pair with meals can be the final touch to turning the food we eat and serve into a masterpiece of flavors.
There are a few basic and fundamental guidelines for pairing food and wines, none of which can be simply squeezed into the theory of ‘white wines for fish and red wines for meats.’ There exists an entire universe of variables and undertones which can take us way beyond this over simplified theory and raise our tasting experience to new heights. One basic rule of thumb is that after having taken a bit of food and then sipped some wine, our palates should be left with a taste that is delicate, pleasant and harmonious. This is the mark of a good pairing. If, however, the aftertaste is unpleasant, metallic or bitter, then that particular wine is not the ideal partner for the dish.
Complementary pairings are those which counteract discordant tastes by matching opposite dominant flavors in order to create balance. This guideline works well for savory foods, where an ideal wine match would have characteristics opposite of the dish we are eating. This is why foods which are fatty and soft pair best with wines that are more acidic, effervescent and sapid, characteristics which define hardness in a wine. In fact, these types of wines are able to act as palate cleansers when matched with richer foods.
When serving dishes which are predominantly bolder in flavor or when eating foods which are more acidic or bitter the ideal pairing is a wine that is soft and not overly tannic. Instead greasy foods, such as fried seafood, are best matched with dry wines, for example a white. Dishes which are both greasy and succulent can be paired with more tannic red wines.
Congruent pairings match similar compounds in the food and the wine which come together to intensify certain flavors. This method of matching is ideal for choosing wines to match with sweets. Desserts require a wine that is also sweet, able to bring out the soft delicate taste of the food. These congruent pairings highlight the harmonious flavors found in both the food and the wine.
Of course, other criteria for choosing the best wine to match with particular foods exist as well, criteria such as the desire to bring out one particular element in a dish or specific regional pairings in which a typical food is served with a locally produced wine. Seasonal and psychological factors can also be determinate in selecting wines for certain foods. So, consider this a brief dip into the universe of food and wine pairings, and keep posted with Cucine d’Italia for upcoming articles which will help us learn more about the methods for pairing the perfect foods and wines.