How to pair wine with food like a Pro?
Nov 17,2022 | Magnum Opus Wines
1) Choose a wine style that you like:
Based on your experience, do you prefer light body (Cotes du Rhone) or full body (Chateauneuf du Pape)? Fresh acidity (Chablis) or smooth acidity (Meursault)? Dry wine (Sancerre) or sweet wine (Sauternes)? Fruity (Beaujolais) or oaky (Pauillac)?
2) Match the price of the food with the wine:
What is the occasion? An everyday wine would be good with a simple dish (ham and mash potatoes, nasi lemak, seafood pasta, sushis, pizzas...), but a premium wine would be much better with delicacies (chilli crab, oyster, lobster, caviar, truffle...).
3) Match delicate flavors with delicate wines and robust wines with hearty meals:
Look for similarities in acidity level (lemon pie with Champagne); sweetness level (dark chocolate cake with Vin Doux Naturel); delicate flavors (scallops, dim sum, carpaccio) with light bodied wines (chardonnay, sauvignon, gamay, grenache, pinot noir...); bold flavors (caramelized pork belly, ox tail stew, buah keluak) with powerful wine (syrah, malbec, merlot, cabernet sauvignon...).
Also try to link the flavors profile, like serving a fresh mineral white wine (Loire Valley Chenin blanc) with a hot salty dish with iodine flavors (mussels, seafood tempuras) or mineral aftertaste (warm goat cheese salad); a spicy Alsace Gewurztraminer or broad Pinot Gris with an Indian or Thai curry; a buttery white wine with a creamy cheese or fish/poultry in cream; a fruity red wine with a juicy red meat... Please avoid contrasts like bone dry white wines with sweet cakes or tannic red wine with seafood, as they tend to clash with each other, with a few exceptions of course (Roquefort with Sauternes for example).
4) Match the color of the food and wine:
White wines with creamy sauce and cheeses, poultry and fish, dark leafy greens (their bitterness doesn't go well with reds) and most veggies (cauliflower, corn, white onion, leek, asparagus, green bell pepper, green olives...), and if you are looking to pair wine with desserts, prefer white fruits (apple, peach, pear, longan, lychee, etc).
A dry rosé wine is very versatile, half way between white and red, it goes well with everything and is regarded by many as the food friendliest wine, especially with everything pink (salmon, prawn, crab, tuna, bacon, pizza, laksa).
Depending on the red wine (light, medium, full bodied), pair it with red meats (lean meat like duck or beef with lean red wine, or fatty meat like pork and lamb with rich powerful red wine) or red-purple veggies (beans, lentils, beetroot, tomato sauce, red quinoa, red onion, red cabbage, red bell pepper, black olives...) and red-black fruits for desserts (berries, cherries, pomegranate, red dragon fruits...).
Once you picked the colour, consider the cooking methods (raw, boiled, baked, braised, stir fry, deep fried...) and seasonings (salt and pepper, sugar and honey, lemon and vinegar...) and fine tune your wine selection accordingly (light or full bodied, dry or lightly sweet...).
5) Match also the geographic origins:
Source products from the same region (Vin Jaune and Comte; Apple Cider and Camembert; Loire Valley Sauvignon or Chenin Blanc with Goat cheese; Alsace Riesling with Munster or Sauerkraut; White Burgundy with Brillat-Savarin; Red Burgundy with Coq-Au-Vin; Cahors with Cassoulet or Duck Confit; Oysters with a Bordeaux Entre-Deux-Mers; White or Rose de Provence with Bouillabaisse...). "If it grows together, it goes together” and the world's Chefs best recipes and classic wine pairings are created with local, seasonal products.
Remember to have fun and experiment, there are more than a thousand grape varieties and wine styles, each country, region, city and family have their own recipes. At the beginning, it's more a trial and error process, but like everything else, you get better with practice. Follow the above principles and soon you will be able to host your own with dinner at home with confidence. If you are still not sure, ask your friendly neighborhood wine merchants to assist you, they will be happy to!
Eventually, trust your instinct, palate and senses and don't let other people sway your opinion. There are objective facts like the size and topography of a vineyard, the methods of cultivation and winemaking, the residual sugar and the pH of a specific wine, but the wine perception in the mouth is very subjective and varies greatly from one person to another. When it comes to personal preferences, there is no right nor wrong nor definitive answers, so there is no need to argue! The glassware, the service temperature, the food pairing, the people you are with, the venue, the time of the day, even the playlist, all play a part in defining a magical moment.
And like all the good things in life, it's all about quality, not quantity, so please drink with moderation! Cheers!