Publisher : Magna Publications - CITADEL Pune

One of the most civilized and the most natural things in the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection offering a range for enjoyment and appreciation than any other purely sensory thing is WINE. In our last rendezvous we learnt in details about the Red and the White wines and how to savour them in the right kind of stemware. Now that we are well acquainted, let’s focus on what kind of food pairings should be done while ordering or offering a particular wine.

With its relatively low alcoholic strength, appetising acidity and lack of sickly artificial flavours, wine is the perfect accompaniment to food. What I love about wine is that pairing it with food is more art than science. While my goal is to provide a great starting point, clearly your own preferences and experiences will quickly take over. So let me help you select and enjoy the right wine for any occasion.

I usually suggest to drink what you like because it always takes precedence over any recommendation that I might make, but start by thinking about the dish or meal as a whole because that will give you the best pairing. Ask yourself as to what are its dominant characteristics: Is it mild or flavourful? Is it fatty or lean? Is it rich or acidic? With these characteristics in mind, select a wine that will keep flavours in balance. Here are a few basic rules:-

Match mild foods with mild wines and bold flavours with heavy bodied wines. For example, pair a bold-flavoured pepper steak with a spicy, bold red Zinfandel. Similarly you generally would want to match the richness of the food and the richness of the wine, such as pair a rich chicken in cream sauce with a rich Chardonnay.

Cleanse the palate with tannins or acids, so if you're eating a relatively rich 'fatty' dish like fried chicken then think about drinking a red wine with some good acidic texture in it to help cleanse the palate; Tannins are the astringent compounds in red wines that help give the wine a structure, they are an ideal complement to luxurious meats making brawny reds like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah perfect matches for dishes like pan seared sausages.

Serve an unoaked white with anything you can squeeze a lemon or lime on. White wines such as Sauvignon Blanc have a bright, citrusy acidity that acts like a zap of lemon or lime juice to heighten flavours in everything from smoked sablefish to grilled salmon. It’s a great pairing for sea food and specially potato salad with capers and onions.

Match Acids with Acids. If you're eating a dish with a strong acidic content such as Shrimp with Lemon or Pasta with Tomato Sauce, pair it with an acidic wine that can keep up with the acids in the food. Please make sure not to mix Acidic Wines with Cream. Rich cream sauces will usually clash with an acidic wine in a stomach upsetting manner!

Strong spices, such as hot chilli peppers in some Asian or Indian food, can clash and destroy the flavours in a wine. In most cases, wine is not the ideal thing to drink with these cuisines. However, if wine is what you must have, then consider something with low-alcohol. Alcohol accentuates the oils that make spicy food hot. So when confronted with dishes like a Thai stir-fry, look for wines that are low in alcohol, such as a Riesling (especially since a touch of sweetness helps counter spiciness).

Choose earthy wines with earthy foods. Many great pairing combinations happen when wines and foods echo one another. Earthiness is often found in reds such as Pinot Noir (particularly from Burgundy) making them great partners for equally earthy ingredients, like steaks and wild mushrooms.

Lastly for desserts, go with a lighter wine. When pairing desserts and dessert wines, it's easy to overwhelm the taste buds with sweetness. Instead, choose a wine that's a touch lighter and less sweet than the dessert—for instance; effervescent Madeira will be great and a safer option.

I know it sounds a little complicated but it is all just a matter of habbit. After all where there is a will, there is always a way. However if you ever get in doubt at the moment of truth, remember that foods generally go best with the wines they grew up with. So if you're eating Italian food, think about having an Italian wine. This isn't a requirement, but often helps simplify the decision.

Well it has been said, “Where there is no wine there is no love.” So why wait...get started right away because there’s no age of being in love. Cheers!

Back to columnist page