Am I making you hungry?
Everyone has a favourite food combination or comfort food that has a special place in their psyche or stomach. I don't think that a burger and broccoli or a cheeseburger with mashed potatoes is as appetizing as a big juicy BBQ'd burger with all the fixin's and some golden brown french fries on the side. It's interesting how we can easily pair our favourite foods but when it comes to pairing a wine with a meal, some people have a really difficult time. They will usually default to the old standard rules of red wine with red meat and white wine with chicken or fish.
I recently finished a wine and food pairing course in my Sommelier program which really opened my eyes and taste buds to new ideas about pairing food and wine. Now I certainly can't do justice to the course by trying to capture all of the pairing information in this blog but I can give out some worth while information to help people get started with wine pairing. So here's a few of my "markucorked" rules to follow when you are pairing food and wine.
markuncorked Rule #1 - Everyone is different when it comes to food and wine tastes. Some people like a Shiraz and some people don't so if you whip up a dish of spicy Tandori chicken, pair it with a peppery Aussie Shiraz and a few of your dinner guests turn there nose up at the taste, don't take it personal. Not everyone likes the same food or the same wine as you do.
markuncorked Rule #2 - There are 2 ways to pair food. You can pair similar textures and tastes like a buttery flavoured Chardonnay with lobster and butter or you can contrast them like a sweet port and Stilton cheese (sweet and salty). There's no right or wrong here. It's all about what you like but don't be afraid to mix and match different wines with foods that have different tastes, textures and flavours. You're looking for a magical pairing that leaves you with a feeling like you've discovered a new element on the periodic table.
markuncorked Rule #3 - If you can, take a wine and food pairing dinner or course. Reading a bunch of books about wine and food pairing is no substitute for actually sitting down and sampling a variety of wines and dishes prepared by a professional. There are a number of local restaurants that offer wine and food pairing dinner packages. Go with a few friends and make it a fun night out. You won't regret it.
Now that you have a couple of basic rules, here's some tidbits you should know about your taste buds.
- Sweetness in food makes your wine taste less sweet or more tart so watch out for foods that have a natural sweetness to them. Remember that the wine must always be sweeter than the paired food. This is particularly true for desserts which have high sugar levels. Pinot Grigio's and Chardonnays will taste like vinegar if they are paired with a dessert like creme brule.
- Tannins in wine makes bitter foods taste even more bitter. This is really apparent when a tannic wine like a Cabernet Sauvignon is paired with a salad. The bitterness of an endive, lettuce or radicchio is accentuated by the tannins. Not a pleasant taste in your mouth.
- Foods like chicken, white fish or pork don't really have their own flavour. They rely on the sauce, spice or way the chef prepares the food so when you are picking a wine to pair with chicken, fish or pork think less about the meat and more about how it's cooked. Thai chicken is a completely different from Coq au Vin so you don't try to pair it with the same type of wine.