The Real Rules of Food and Wine Pairing, Part Three

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In the last two posts, we’ve learned that food and wine should be paired up with an eye to their tastes, flavors, and textures.  We’ve also committed to heart the three concepts most important to making that world-class match.  Today…we reveal the “real rules” -those flavor dynamics that occur when wine meets food – and how to make them work for us!

The Real Rules…Here they are!  

  1. Any level of acidity in food…whether it is a squeeze of lemon or a topping of tomatoes, will diminish your ability to taste acidity in wine.  Simply stated, acid in food makes acid in wine less apparent.  If you are starting with a tart, high-acid wine, acidic foods will make your wine taste smoother.  The flip-side of this rule is that acidic foods can wash out low-acid wines and make them taste flabby – beware!  Acidic foods require high-acid wines.
  2. Sweet food will make the sweetness of a wine less apparent and bring out the other characters of a wine, be it acid, tannin, or bitterness.  If a wine does not contain any discernible sweetness, sweet food will reduce the fruity flavors and bring out acidic, tannic, and earthy tastes and flavors.  One of the biggest mistakes people make is pairing a savory food with a sweet sauce…like roast pork with apples…with dry, tannic wines.  Such dishes require a slightly sweet wine – or a very, very fruity wine for a good match.
  3. Fatty foods will smooth out both the tannin and acid in any wine.
  4. Salty food goes well with acidic wines – they “turbocharge” each other.
  5. Salty food goes well with slightly sweet wines – it’s the trail mix effect.
  6. Salty foods can bring out the bitter quality of tannic wines – beware!
  7. Bitter tastes in foods enhance bitter tastes in wines – beware!!
  8. Matching a flavor in the food with a similar flavor in the wine (such as “herbal”) is called a “flavor bridge” and will most likely be a great match.  Flavor matching is almost always successful and can be a very fun, creative way to pair up food and wine…but be sure the taste components are dealt with before you attempt any flavor match-ups!
  9. Flavor contrasts, will work very well when the flavors mesh together.  Experiment and have fun!  Fruit with Fish?  Herbs with Lamb?  If it works, we call this blend of flavors a “natural affinity” (meaning quite simply “they go well together!).  Happy note:  almost all flavors in food and wine go well together…it’s rare to find a real “clash”.
  10. Texture matches, such as light-bodied wines with light-bodied foods, and rich wines with rich food, are always a reliable match.  Many sommeliers consider this the most important part of food and wine pairing.  (Not me.  You know what I think…it’s all about TASTE!)

So…there you have the theory portion of your food and wine pairing knowledge.  Now..how about the practical???  Stay tuned – In the near future, I’ll be discussing specific pairings – complete with recipes, recommended wines, and (because I am the Bubbly Professor), the theory and science behind why these pairings work.  Cheers and Bon Appetit!

About bubblyprof
Wine Writer and Educator...a 20-year journey from Bristol Hotels to Le Cordon Bleu Schools and the Society of Wine Educators

3 Responses to The Real Rules of Food and Wine Pairing, Part Three

  1. Susan says:

    I wish I could attend one of your classes!! Do you have any public classes scheduled for the future?

  2. Shields says:

    If only more people knew this, I would hear “Chocolate and Cabernet” FAR less often!

  3. Shields says:

    Please, please, please present this at my conference some day! I loved it last yeat at the FELC Conference!

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