The Food & The Pair
Drinking fine wine is among the most tasteful experiences. And when a great wine is combined with nice food, the whole experience gets enhanced and brought to a different level.
Food and wine complete each other, playing around the senses they both trigger and dancing together as they were playing a game of harmony and contrast. Pairing food and wine is indeed an exciting journey where experiments turn into discoveries around your palate.
We believe great wines can makes simple food very special and, in this post, we summarise few tips to pair some of the most common everyday dishes with some gems.
Food and Wine Pairing: a Dance of Senses
What food and wine have in common? Simply put, they both combine experiences across three senses: taste, smell and sight. Smell is perhaps the most important of all, as our nose recognises hundreds of different chemical substances, way more in-depth compared to what our tongue or our eyes are able to catch. This aspect is easy detectable when thinking about how different food tastes when having a cold.
Fine wines unleash plenty of different flavours and aromas, hence the combination of high-quality wines with great food brings the whole dining experience to a different level. Variety is one of the most prominent concepts in the wine industry, so there are many options to experiment across. As much as exploring can be fun, we also suggest familiarising with some combinations not go for, in order to avoid bad surprises.
But don’t worry, there is enough food and enough wine to make everyone happy: including your palate!
Logically, food and wine from the same area are very often a safe bet. This is due to fact cuisine and viticulture are tied to their territory and connected with each other. Although, we recommend a certain degree of specificity about the area: Italian wine for Italian food might be too broad, for example, as the difference between each region are quite pronounced. We would rather narrow down, for example, to red wines from Piedmont and the famous meat dishes from the area, such as carpaccio or vitello tonnato.
Trust local history: hundreds of years of tradition cannot be that wrong after all.
Food and Wine Pairing: Contrast and Harmony
Food pairing generally involves two opposite approaches: contrast and harmony.
“Contrast” is, for example, when the oiliness element of certain recipes is balanced by the slightly rough and bitter features of certain red wines. The combination of these two contrasting elements make the dining experience more pleasant, as the taste of the wine is smoothened by the texture of the food: picture an Italian bruschetta with a glass of Barbaresco… For the same principle, particularly savoury, bitter or acidic recipes can be balanced by soft wines: how does an artichoke salad and an elegant Chardonnay from Burgundy, or a delicate Sauvignon Blanc from Loire sound?
Furthermore, juicy food should be accompanied more alcoholic wines. Alcohol tends to dry the mouth, right in contrast with the juiciness of the food: what about a burger, or a stew, with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon from Bordeaux?
On the other side, some pairings rely on harmony. One the most significant examples in this area is around desserts: generally, wine needs to be sweeter than the food to avoid an acidic, unpleasant taste triggered by the reaction between wine and sugar. However, milk chocolate has a good sparring in Viognier from Rhone, while some light Pinot Noirs go really well with white chocolate.
For hard cheese, harmony lies in persistency. Parmigiano Reggiano has a strong flavour that tends to stay in your mouth for a relatively long time: the right wine pair has to be able to cope with that persistency. Glorious grape varieties from Bordeaux like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc would to the job, but equally would do so a relatively strong Malbec from Argentina.
This also explains why rich in protein food such as red meat and cheese go really well with reds. With whites, the natural acidity of the wine fits really well with fish oiliness.
A Wine for Every Dish
Being a little more specific, for pizza we would look at solid, dry reds like Brunello di Montalcino, Malbec or Bordeaux wines. For sushi, a suitable choice would be an aromatic Chardonnay, a Sauvignon Blanc or a Semillon.
Chicken based dishes are very interesting, as they could fit really well with both whites and reds: Chardonnay is a very good option, whether the wine comes from Burgundy, California or Argentina, but it’s also a good chance to explore a combination with some light, aromatic Pinot Noirs.
And vegetarian options have a fairly wide choice of great bottles to be accompanied by, ranging from the delicate whites that perfectly fit with vegetables, adding some champagne and delicate reds when moving to soft cheese, finally exploring some Bordeaux and Malbec blend in regards to hard cheese.
There really is a great wine willing to embrace and dance with any of your food preferences. Our tips are not there to narrow down your options, but rather to put you in the right direction if you want to start a journey and explore further.