When it comes to wine and food pairing to those who are wine drinkers, the jury is out. On one hand are those who think that wine and food pairing “rules” are to be strictly observed, and on the other side are those wine drinkers who could care less. No matter where your opinion lies, the reality of it is, some wine just tastes better with certain foods. The first step is learning the basics.
Wine and food pairing? It’s a cinch
There are some basic guidelines that you can apply when planning your meal, whether it’s a dinner at home, or trying to search for the perfect wine on a restaurant wine list. Typically when planning a meal, one thinks of the meal first and the wine second, which is just fine. Now instead of thinking of the flavors in the food (and the accompanying wine) try thinking of the weight. Is the food light, medium or hearty? Is the food raw, baked or grilled? Is the sauce thin, medium or rich? You want to balance the weight of the wine with the weight of the food. A light weight wine will get lost when paired with a heavier dish. Notice the first guideline does not state “red with red, white with white.” The old saying that you should serve red wine with red meat or red sauce, and white wine with white meat or white sauce is outdated. Today there are great light-bodied red wines that will accompany grilled chicken, and wonderful heavy bold white wines that can stand up to heartier, more seasoned fare. Light example: Chicken and vegetable soup with Ponte’s 2013 Vermentino. Heavy example: The Restaurant’s Beef Braciole and Ponte’s 2011 Super T.
The second factor in selecting a wine is flavor intensity. With more intense flavors in your dish, you will need more intense flavors in your wine, otherwise your wine will taste watered-down. Match delicate to delicate, robust with robust. Example: The complicated flavors of Thai Yellow Curry would be excellent with the flavorful and slightly robust Ponte 2013 Chardonnay.
A robust meal like grilled steak with chimichurri sauce calls for a robust wine, like Ponte Malbec.
Another great way to pair a wine with food is to think about the origin of the food and wine. Traditionally red wines from Italy taste fantastic with Italian fare. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Regions which consume lots of tomato-based dishes need a wine that compliments the high acid of tomato sauces, so the winemakers respond to the need. Burgundy wines go great with Burgundy foods like of slow cooked meats and stews. White and rose wines are very popular in coastal areas because they pair beautifully with seafood dishes! See, it’s not rocket science after all!
Italian Margarita pizza with Italian Sangiovese wine
When it comes to sweets, there are a few other considerations. Sweetness in food will increase the bitterness, acidity and astringency in any wine. You can taste this when you pair an off-dry, fruity rose wine with a sweeter dessert. The wine on its own shows its character of fruit and subtle sweetness, but displays tart, bitter, astringent flavors with no real fruit when tasted after a sweet dessert. Sweet foods also decrease the body, richness, sweetness and fruit in the wine. While this may seem to pose a problem, the guideline with desserts is actually very simple: Make sure your wine is sweeter than your dessert. Example: The Restaurant’s Pot of Crème dessert with Ponte’s 2009 Zinfandel Port.
Now that you know the guidelines, remember, as with all guidelines in life, there is wiggle room. Take a risk and you may discover something great. You may make some twisted faces on the ones that don’t work, but you also may miss out on a pairing that makes the meal all the more spectacular if you don’t try new things here and there.
Let us know what you come up with!
–Jayna Viereck, Wine Production Manager