This morning on The Broadcast we broke down a few common misconceptions on how to match your favorite flavors in food and wine. Pairing a wine requires more than just smart protein and sauce decisions, even the most unique of pairings can match well together if balanced with the addition of a bit of seasoning, a bit of acid, a bit of umami, to create balance in your dishes. However, figuring out the best combo is the tricky part, but it doesn’t have to be.
I was recently in Napa Valley traveling as a guest of Treasury Wine Estates and had a chance to do a tasting at Beringer Vineyards to help identify the dominant tastes in food (sweet, sour, bitter, salty) which understanding can help you pair the best wines. Created by their Senior Manager of Wine Education, Jerry Comfort, the objective of the tasting was to find the wine and food pairing that leave the wine tasting as close to the winemakers intent as possible. Most people think of pairing wine with food; this one takes the opposite, pairing the food with the wine, as in wine country wine is the most important part of the meal.
Here are a few tips Jerry and his team created to help you make the ideal pairings at your next dinner party.
- Dishes that are spicy or sweet and low in salt, like Asian, Thai, Indian or certain chili filled Mexican dishes are best paired with light whites, unoaked reds or slightly off-dry wines (like Cava/Prosecco, Torrontes, Riesling, Moscato, Gamay). The flavors of the food will enhance the acidity in the wine become stronger and crisper, with the natural fruitiness of the wine balancing the acidity, ideal for pairing with the heat and spice in the food. Richer wines that are aged in oak would create a bitterness or tannic profile when paired with the spice or sweetness of certain foods.
- Dishes that are high in acid (citrus, vinegar or even wine) or are slightly bitter will make even the most acidic wine (like some wines from Italy, Greece or California Pinot Noir) taste softer and more fruit forward than when sipped on their own, an overall bonus, but too much acidity can also make a wine taste a bit flabby and uninteresting. If the wine gets too lost adding a bit of salt will help bring it into balance. Think bitter greens with Pinot Grigio, Mushroom risotto with Pinot Noir, or Champagne and caviar.
- Properly seasoned dishes with salt and pepper, and properly balanced dishes with the addition of acidity, will help develop more complex flavors in the food, creating the best pairings for any wine. It is why it is so important to taste your food as you are cooking, and why often, a restaurant meal is so much better than why you can do at home because so many chefs aren’t afraid to use salt in their preparations….more than we normally would at home. When dishes have a balance of both salt and acidity they will pair with the broadest range of wines, and create a flavor most like what the winemaker had hoped for.