When pairing food with wine it is important to think about the act itself – what makes a pair?
Sometimes opposites attract, but not always with wine and cuisine. You can find surprise yourself by mixing it up, but the most import base to pair with is always FLAVOR.
It’s important to remember to always match similar flavors and textures and make sure the intensity of the wine contributes to the flavor of the dish.
Here are some quick hints to get you on your way:
Match wine with foods with similar richness and texture. Think about what is going to bring out the characteristics of both. Such as a nice, acidic Chainti will pair excellently with a tangy tomato based pasta with pungent cheese (like parmesan). Or pair a light and fragrant Vernaccia white with a nice garlic and butter based seafood dish. Add basil and you’re working with the herbal textures of the wine. Do not be afraid.
Balance tastes! Is the food sweet, sour, salty, bitter? How does the wine taste? Remember that salty and sour tastes in food will make wines taste milder (fruitier and less acidic), whereas most sweet and savory tastes make wines taste stronger (drier and more astringent).
Always try to balance the acidity of the food to the wine. Pinot Grigio’s are great with citric based foods like lemon chicken or light and floral soups or stews. If you’re drinking a desert wine that is very sweet, have a nice biscotti or torte. The wine should always be just as sweet, or sweeter.
Look at the region where the wines come from and pick food from that area. Italy is so diverse in its wines but is even more diverse in its cuisine. Note vegetables and spices which come from that area and seek out dishes with those characteristics. Remember that the soil that the fruits and vegetables grow in, and the grass the native animals feed upon, is the same base for the vines. They feed off the same nutrients and will therefore have similar flavors. You’re going to have similarities wherever you look regionally.
Light, Medium and Full-bodied wines
When you are cooking, remember that light body wines go well with steamed, lightly sauteed, or poached foods. Medium and full-bodied wines go better with grilled, roasted, or baked dishes that have intense flavors. Acidic wines work well with salty dishes. Try to work with the body of the wine and the depth of the meal.
Game birds such quail, turkey, duck, and squab have earthy flavors that are more robust than chicken. Because of this, you should pair them with wines that can pick up those characteristics of spice and earth.
Fish and Seafood
Seafood does not always have to be paired with white whine. Chianti is such a diverse wine with a dry-body that it will not ruin and hide the flavors of the sea. Mix it up a bit and explore the flavors. Some shellfish, like oysters – are excellent with sparkling wine. The salt from the sea and carbonation from the sparkling wine is a killer combination.