How to Pair Wine and Food in 3 Simple Steps: Your No Nonsense Guide

Posted on January 29, 2017 by Dimitri Safonov | 0 comments

Food and Wine Pairing Guide in 3 Simple Steps with our Free Guide

You already know about health benefits of organic wine.

You have probably been reading something about food and wine matching but may have been overwhelmed by the rules.

Here is our no nonsense guide to food and wine matching, so you can make better decisions. Most importantly - your own decisions!

Do not be a victim of somebody else's taste preferences

First of all, there are no rules. At best, there are suggestions based on chemical reactions of one type of food with a particular wine. Yet again, those are only recommendations and you need to bear in mind that most foods that usually go well with wine in general would taste OK with the good wine you’d buy. Feeling better already? More confident maybe? That’s how it should be - food and wine go together in synergy to give you pleasure, not confusion and intimidation.

Step 1 - How sensitive your taste buds are? Establish a level.

You need to establish some very basic understanding about how sensitive your tastebuds are (or your dinner guest(s) if that is also of some concern). Ask yourself a very simple question - How do I take my tea or coffee?

Coffee is a very strongly flavoured drink and, as black tea as well, contains tannins, so it will help you to understand how full bodied you’d prefer your wine.

For very sensitive tastebuds (those of you who put a lot of milk and maybe sweeten your drink to make it palatable) full bodied wines like Malbec will taste overwhelming. These people will simply say that they do not like it because it is too big of a wine, their sensors are too sensitive for that. Choose light bodied reds (medium at most), light and neutral whites - there is a huge spectre of such wines to enjoy and savour those delicate flavours.

For people who also put some milk to their coffees, but not as much, just a little bit, the whole medium bodied range of wines are great. They are medium sensitive and can appreciate light and delicate flavours, but can also enjoy bigger and bolder flavours. These people will still be sensitive to bitterness, similarly with the previous group, so think about smooth wines, maybe some oak matured, maybe round blends. Too astringent and unripe tannins will cause thee people to taste bitter and hence spoil the enjoyment of the wine.

Finally, tolerant tastebuds are those people who can drink an espresso shot without milk and with a lot of pleasure. These people are very tolerant to bitterness and as opposed to the previous groups could simply miss that point altogether. Hence even young unoaked reds, full of playful and stalky tannins are absolutely OK. Similarly with the body - these people prefer big flavours. More delicate flavours are appreciated, but those people feel as those are too watery for them, they need thicker texture and bolder flavours.

This simple question can tell you a lot about what wines to select, how to treat your dinner guests better (assuming you do not see them for the first time) and how to experiment with your wines without major risks. It is very easy and you can start shopping for wine with that point in mind - how bold you need those flavours to be, how delicate you need your wine to be. Simple!

Step 2 - Food flavours and wine. How do they affect each other?

Let’s move on to food specific characteristics and see how those may influence your choice of wine.

Top tip: the below advice is, again, stated as ‘may influence’, so when in doubt refer to local cuisine - what would French people eat in the south to match with the classic Cotes du Rhone. You will have ideas straightaway.

So let’s divide this all into 3 groups: the good matches, the bad ones (very risky!) and those to treat with caution. 

GOOD pairings:

By adding some salt and acidity to your food you are not only going to enhance the flavours, you are going to magically make your wine taste less bitter, less acidic, less dry and less tannic. You will taste a bit more fruit, richer flavours and a touch of sweetness.

! : do not go overboard, no food should taste more acidic than your wine, squeeze your lemons with caution!

BAD pairings:

Sweet food is a very difficult option. By the time you are done with your main courses and move on to pudding, you normally also finish drinking that awesome wine. Simply because it will taste more dry, more acidic and much more tannic with your chocolate fondant.

! : notable exceptions include wines with elevated sweetness, you can opt for medium sweet Gewürztraminer and go sweeter and sweeter to fortified Port wine.

The word Umami, which refers to savoury foods, is something that you can taste in salted mushrooms easily. It is generally not a pleasant combination as this flavour does the same as sweet food, but it also doesn’t like tannins or oak, so generally speaking, you food can have umami flavour yet if it is not ultimately prominent, you should be OK. Do not serve too many mushrooms with an oaky Rioja or Chateauneuf du Pape and you will be totally ok!

CAUTION:

If you match your wine with oily and fatty foods, you will notice that you wine starts to taste smooth and less acidic. Nothing wrong with that, so simply go for more acidic wines.

If you are a fan of spicy foods, you may have already noticed that alcohol simply elevated chilli burn and makes it quite sharp. What you can do is simply pick a wine that has a touch of sweetness and is very fruity. It will taste much more mellow with your spicy dish, but the combination is what many people find attractive. Would you agree? Again, it is all down to your own preferences!

Top tip: opt for lower alcohol wines when eating spicy foods, and may all wine producers forgive me, but you can also opt for a lighter abv cider or beer!

So at this point you have considered what kind of wine you will buy - lighter style, medium bodied or full and rich one. You have also thought about how it will match with your food and probably added a few more lemons and good quality salt to your shopping list. See, it is really simple!

Step 3 - Time to finally serve wine and food!

Final step is to serve. You were focused on your delicious meals and serving wine is an important thing (after all, you’ve done all those considerations earlier on!), yet again - very simple!

The wine that you’ve purchased should be stored somewhere aside, with no major light or heat affecting it. You should serve your light white wines, sparkling and sweet wines well chilled (6-10 C), medium bodied whites just chilled (10-13 C), light reds also slightly chilled (13 C) and medium and full bodied reds at room temperature (15-18 C).

It is probably such a weird thing to note, but we all have a bit different ‘room temperatures’, so if yours is warmer than that, do not be afraid to chill your red for just a while. You will see the difference.

These 3 steps are here to help you make your dining experience even better

Well that’s all really! You’ve put a fair amount of thought, selected some amazing (hopefully also organic!) wines and are now serving them for the best drinking experience with your food.

We hope you feel this useful guide on food and wine matching will help you make better decisions, your own decisions on wine! Cheers

P.S. Organic Wine Club is an Approved Programme Provider for WSET wine courses and qualifications. Head to our wine school page for more information on how you can further enhance your wine knowledge and browse our wine tasting pre-mixed cases.

This is a short summary video of this post, hope you've found this wine guide useful!

 

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