In my opinion, wine is part of our daily alimentation. It nourishes, is tastes, it should be served with other food ingredients. I don’t particularly enjoy drinking wine alone, I need at least some bread, olives, cheese. And the whole point of learning wine is to understand each strain/ style etc. and be able to match in with food, any food. Because even with the simplest wine and the humblest dish, we can create a sensational matching when well paired, and even the best-scored wine can be simply spoiled by the mistaken combination of the ingredients. So please take a look for my general rules of food and wine matching.
In successful wine & food matching, we are looking for complementary aromas. But some pairings can be built on contraries that complement each other. It is about identifying the predominant aroma of the dish and look for it in the wine. For example, the earthy notes mushrooms and beets are easy to identify in Pinot Noir.
The aromas can be found in the nose but also in the mouth of the wine, and we aim to create a synergy with the ingredients of the dish. My advice is to make the aromatic profile of the wine (simply write all the aromas that you can notice in the glass), taste it well, according to the stages (sight, nose, and mouth) and try to serve it with a similar plate.
The most important pairing rule says the following: between a wine and a dish there must be a synergy, certain combinations that produce a sense of harmony in our palate. Therefore, before our crucial choice, we have to consider the mentioned aromas/flavors and weight/structure of the food and wine: Wines can be light, medium, or firm bodied. It depends on how much alcohol and tannins the wine has. The dish must be equivalent to the wine in weight and structure. In general, the more weight the dish has, the more body a wine should have. A preparation with a lot of fat, such as meat, butter, or cream, usually requires a wine with good structure, weight, intensity, and concentration. In a few words: delicate to delicate, heavy to heavy.
As, you know, one of the most important steps of wine tasting is in the mouth. Here we seek to discover the wine’s identity and the characteristics of a particular style, but above all, we look forward to finding the perfect balance. On our tongue, there are the taste buds, such that, depending on their location, sensory receptors perceive five tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami. All these flavors can be found in wine and our foods, causing many interactions. I assure you this is not magic, but pure biology and chemistry.
Our taste buds get used very fast to a sweet taste. When we eat a dessert, the mouth gets desensitized and wine tastes less sweet. Thus, wine tastes to acid and tannic. Simply the wine loses its beauty and our pairing is very difficult. So, it is always recommended that the wine must be sweeter than your recipe. Late Harvest, Sweet wines to cakes, cookies, etc.
Salt hides tannins, but at the same time makes the wine feel less refreshing and more alcoholic. if your recipe is rather salty, you need to choose a wine with a rich and pronounced acidity.
Bitter foods make wines feel more tannic. When we eat an artichoke or bitter chocolate, it increases the perception of bitter tannins. Besides, bitterness decreases the feeling of fruit in the wine. Sommeliers are always very careful when dealing with bitter ingredients. Usually, they work with recipes that have only a touch of bitterness. That is, they try not to expose wine too much.
Acidity also reduces the acid sensation of wine. This helps to soften the tannins and to bring to our palate the fruit and sweetness of the wine. Besides, the acidity of the wine works as a kind of sword that cuts the greasy or oily feeling of some food.
Umami is known as the fifth taste. If you have not heard of it, it is associated with Asian cuisine, often with fermented foods, cooked mushrooms, parmesan cheese, and even tomatoes. The risk with the umami taste is that it makes the tannins feel harder. Besides its pushes up the acidity and alcohol warming effect, dimming the fruit, body, and sugar. Many umami dishes are often heavily salted to neutralize this effect. With the umami taste pair, rich wine with the same flavor goes very well. For example, parmesan cheese with sparkling wine.
Spicy foods increase the warming effect of alcohol in wine that’s why a sweet wine is always welcome with spicy dishes, such as Mexican, Indian, or Chinese. However, if you like the fire in your mouth you can choose a powerful and voluptuous red wine, but with rich acidity. And no, simply semidry, semisweet, dessert wines so popular in Poland, they don’t work with kotlet schabowy ( kind of pork schnitzel), grill or ryba po grecku ( fried fish with sauteed vegetables and tomato sauce).
While some tannins are pleasant, many people prefer masking them and feel the wine softer and more friendly on the palate. As mentioned, tannins are hidden by salt, but salt also makes the wine feel less refreshing and more alcoholic. Therefore, it will become rich, sweet, and fruity. If the wine tastes too tannic, just add a pinch of salt to your plate. And if the recipe is well salted, you have to choose a wine with a very rich and pronounced acidity.
These rules are quite easy and everyone can learn the basic science of pairing. But not everybody has predispositions as an excellent sense of smell or taste that characterizes many sommeliers. Also, sommeliers dedicate their lives to know the widest variety of wines and dishes of different techniques, seasonings, and ingredients. So, in many cases, people who know the basic rules will choose a rich and proper wine for a dish, while the professional will recommend an option that surprises us and rise the matching to another level of harmony. That, precisely, is the frontier where pairing science ends and art begins.