Wine is one of the most popular alcoholic drinks that has attracted a huge number of followers. To meet the demands of the wine lovers, wine shops across the country are now in the quest to get the best products for their customers at the best prices. From Indian to International brands one can easily spot the large varieties of wine in the wine stores.
They say that you do not necessarily fall in love with the wine at the first sip; rather you experiment with the different types of wine, develop an understanding of its taste and texture and then finally you get acquainted with the taste of the wine that you like the most. Thereby falling in love with the complexity of the wine. Like they say all good things take time, similarly developing a taste for wine does take time, patience and practice.
Now that you have encouraged yourself to taste different types of wines, you need to know about the basics of wine and food pairings. Well, wine and food is a match made in heaven, only if you know how to pair them correctly. To enlighten your knowledge about the basics of wine and food pairing, it is extremely important to understand some of the common characteristics and terminologies related to wine.
Some of the frequently used wine terminologies are:
- Acidity: It refers to the sharpness of the wine that is perceived by the tastebuds. The acidity of the wine is derived from the quality of grapes. Acidity content adds freshness to the wine.
- Body: It is a term used to describe the impression of the wine on one’s palate. Wine is generally categorised into light, medium or full-bodied wine.
- Dry: In wine terminology, dry is considered to be the opposite of sweet. In dry wines, do not have residual sugars. Thus, they are mildly sweet.
- Silk: It is a term that used to describe the texture of the wine that is smooth on the palate.
- Sweet: The sweetness of the wine is derived from the residual sugars.
- Tannin: It is a naturally occurring compound in the grapes that lends the wine its texture, body and structure. The amount of tannin in the wine can cause it to give an astringent taste.
The above-mentioned wine terminologies will now help you to understand the different characteristics of a wine. It is important to note that a type of wine from different brands will have subtle differences that will make them unique. Some common characteristics related to wine:
- Taste: Every wine from different brands tastes a little different from the other. This is primarily due to the variety of grapes that have been used in fermentation, the duration of the fermentation process and the region from where the grapes are procured.
- Body: The body of the wine is predominantly characterised by the alcohol content of the wine. A full-bodied wine is said to give an impression of heaviness on the palate while a light-bodied wine is said to be just the opposite, that is, it gives the impression of delicate weight on the palate.
- Texture: It is used to describe the effect of the wine on the palate, that is, how one feels after tasting the wine. The texture of a wine can be categorised into rich, silky, crisp or coarse.
- Aroma: Most of the wines that are prepared from grapes will have a fruity aroma. Wines that have been aged in oak barrels influence the taste and aroma of the wine. The age of the barrels and the duration for which the wine was stored in the barrels have a great influence on the taste and aroma of the wine.
The above-mentioned characteristics of wine will now help you to have a better understanding of the wine. Since now you are armoured with the knowledge of the wine, it is now time to understand the different concepts of wine and food pairing.
In order for you to strike a balance between the wine and food, you need to recognise the characteristics of the wine as well as the food that you will be pairing. The two main characteristics of food that you need to consider are:
- Taste: For wine and food pairing, you will primarily need to focus on the five basic tastes of food namely: salt, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami.
- Texture: Most of the regular foods are either creamy or light in texture. Primarily it indicates the fat content in the food.
If you are new to the concept of wine and food pairing, it is essential to understand that you can either pair wine and food to complement each other to enhance the flavours or to use contrasting flavours to create a balance. For wine and food pairing, you can opt for either of the three methods:
- Congruent Pairings: In this method, the wine and the food have similar texture and taste. Thus, the prominent flavours of both the wine and food gets amplified.
For example, the pairing of mac and cheese along with creamy white wine is considered to be congruent pairing. In such a case, the creaminess of both the wine and the dish is amplified.
- Complementary Pairing: In this method, the wine and food are paired together that complement each other.
For example, pairing a dry wine with mac and cheese is considered to be a complementary pairing.
- Contrasting Pairing: In this method, the balance is created by pairing food and wine of contrasting flavours and taste. This type of pairing needs an in depth knowledge of flavours and taste of both the wine and the food.
For example, pairing an acidic wine with a cheesy dish.
In order for you to pair a perfect glass of wine with your food, you must be familiar with the taste, texture and aroma of both the food and the wine. Here are some basic rules for wine and food pairing:
- Consider choosing a wine that is as intense as your food
Opting for a wine that is less intense than your food, will result in overpowering of the flavours of the wine by the food. Thereby, you will not be able to enjoy the flavours and texture of the wine. Similarly opting for a strong wine along with a subtle dish will not be appropriate as the flavours of the wine will dominate. Thus, you will not be able to relish the taste of the subtle flavours of the dish. Finding a balance is the key to wine and food pairing.
- Choose a wine that is sweeter than your food
If you are opting for a dish that has dominant sweet flavours, make sure that your wine is also sweet. In case your wine is less sweet than the food, your wine will then taste bitter or tart. An unpleasant experience!
- Consider the bitter flavours of your wine
It is ideal if you consider pairing your wine with bitter flavours along with dishes that have a higher amount of salt or fat. Pairing wine with bitter flavours along with food that has bitter flavours will only result in aggravating the bitter flavour.
- Consider the sauce and the other ingredients used in the food
If your food consists of complex flavours, consider the ingredients and flavours in the sauce rather than the meat or fish. Then accordingly, pair your wine to balance the flavours.
- Red wines are often used in congruent and complementary wine and food pairings
Most of the red wine in the market is full-bodied along with a high level of tannins. Thus, making them a popular choice for congruent and complementary wine and food pairings.
- Sparkling wines and Rose wines are often used in contrasting wine and food pairing
Sparkling wines and Rose wines vary from being light to medium-bodied. They can be dry or sweet having fruity or floral aromas. Thus, making them a popular choice for contrasting wine and food pairing.
There is nothing as right or wrong in wine and food pairing, as long as it appeals to your palate. There are many guidelines that will help you to navigate through the various wine and food combinations, but it is ultimately your choice to juggle with the flavours, aromas and texture of both wine and food to find an amazing wine and food combination.