5 Easy Steps To Food and Wine Matching

The key to successful matching – food and wine must complement and compliment each other but never overpower each other.

1) Match the body of the wine to the food

Rieslings and light dry white wines often pair well with steamed delicate dishes from fish to chicken.

2) Salty foods go well with Tannic Red Wine

If your wine is Bitter or Astringent (Tannic), you can ‘tone down’ the perception of the wine by serving it with savoury foods or judicious addition of salt to your food. As foods become more salty, their own flavors tend to increase and neutralize bitter and sour tastes of the wine tasted after salty foods. Saltiness in the food creates an impression of less bitterness in the wine.

Dishes with salted fish, fermented soya beans, Thai fish sauce etc. served with cheap but passable red wines can ‘make’ the wine taste very palatable.

3) Wine should be matched to the flavouring ingredient rather than the meat or vegetable the dish comprises.

The various flavouring ingredients in Asian food (oyster, fish, chilli, hoisin, plum, chinchalok, dark soy, light soy, teriyaki, sesame oil, peanut sauce, fermented beans, garlic paste, shrimp paste, coconut milk, etc.) often takes the lead as the predominant flavour.

Here are two examples to illustrate the point.

Example 1. Chinchalok has a pungent aroma with fishy flavours since it is essentially salted mashed shrimp. Chinchalok is served as a dipping sauce with fresh onions and lime with some chilli and sugar. Therefore, the wine should be sweet in order to ‘stand up to’ the chilli and sugar. Sweet wines (e.g. auslese) often have powerful aromas and therefore would not be overpowered by chinchalok. Alternatively, a New World red wine with higher alcohol and a sweet finish (e.g. Zinfandel) would make a match here.

Example 2. Sesame paste is nutty. If tonkatsu or deep fried pork or chicken is dipped in it, the meat will take on a nutty and sesame-like aroma. The accompanying wine might be a wooded Chardonnay or wooded Chenin Blancthat achieves the flavour match. A lighter bodied white wine may match the texture of the meat but its aromas would certainly be over-powered by the sesame flavours.

4) Acidic foods will affect the apparent sweetness of dry wines

Sour foods with high amounts of acidity will decrease our perception of sourness in the wine, making the wine taste richer and more mellow. Natural acids impart tartness or sourness of food or wine. Most wines that have sweetness, such as New World white wines and many Rieslings from Germany and Alsace in France, also have a very high acidity to keep the wine from tasting flat or cloying. If a food reacts in a way that suppresses the sourness of such wines, the wines will taste very sweet in comparison.

Note that dry wines tend to taste more acidic because they do not have the sweetness balancing and covering the sour taste. White wines tend to be higher in acidity than red wines.

Sweet foods will increase the perception of sourness, bitterness and astringency in the wine, making the wine seem less sweet (drier), less fruity and stronger. In other words, when food is sweet it will suppress the sweetness of the wine served with it through sensory adaptation.

5) Besides white wines, you can also match red wines to spicy dishes

Spicy food will exaggerate the tannin and bitterness of a red wine. Salt and sour additions to the food will counteract this effect on the wine. For instance, squeezing lime over hot enchiladas makes for a more wine friendly dish. The chilli in food will also be accentuated by high alcohol wines making the chilli taste hotter that it actually is. For spicy food, stay away from tannic wines. Light bodied (low alcohol) un-oaked red wines will even match fiery curries.

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