Wine on its own provides plenty of enjoyment. When wine is paired with the right foods it can take the overall food and wine pairing experience to a heightened level of satisfaction. The question is which wines does one choose to pair with which foods. The general statement of red wines pair best with meats and white wines pair best with fish and chicken mostly is true, but there are many other factors to consider when conducting food and wine pairings.
A few items to keep in mind when pairing wines with food are the elements of the wine itself and the type of dish being prepared. What is the body or density of the wine? Are we talking a lighter bodied wine like sangiovese, pinot noir or schiava or a full-bodied wine like cabernet sauvignon, syrah or nebbiolo? Is it a wine high or low in alcohol? What are the acidity and tannins like? The selection of your wine choice can either get lost in the pairing or overpower the dish.
Determining the amount of acidity and tannin found in the wine is one of the important factors to consider. Wines lacking acidity and/or alcohol can turn out flabby when paired with particular dishes. Wines containing higher levels of acidity and tannin pair well with fattier dishes as well as sweet dishes. Think a hearty roast or the Tuscan bistecca alla fiorentina with a Chianti Classico Riserva. Perfection! Wines that are high in alcohol should stay clear of salty foods as it creates a bitterness on the palette.
When considering what foods to pair with sweet wines there are a number of foods that can be taken into consideration. It is fine to pair a sweet wine with a dessert, but it is best to make sure the dessert wine is sweeter than the dessert you are pairing it with. Many folks enjoy pairing sweet wines with particular cheeses following a meal. Savory foods can be surprisingly paired with a sweet wine such as Vinsanto as well as salty foods. As an example, try some blue cheese paired with a Vinsanto and you will see what we are talking about. Spicy dishes also do well with wines that have a hint of sweetness and that are lower in alcohol. A classic pairing is chinese food with either a Supertuscan or Vernaccia.
The idea of what grows together goes together is always a good rule to follow and a good place to start. What is important is to not only looking at the meat being served but even more so the sauce that goes with the dish. Red wines do pair well with meats and sauces and compliment these dishes ideally. On the other hand white wines and the foods you pair with them sometimes work best by contrasting one another. If you have a chicken dish, but the chicken is cooked in a cream sauce you would want to pair it with a crisp white with good acid such as a tuscan Vernaccia. A glass of bubbly is another great option to sparkle up the dish.
As always there are many suggested rules when it comes to food and wine pairings so have fun experimenting. In the end it is all about what you personally enjoy. What one person’s perspective is on a food and wine pairing is different than another person’s perspective. That is what makes wine tasting so much fun. It is all about balance in preparing a dish to finding a wine that is well-balanced to go with that dish. So drink and eat what you like and trust your own sensories.