Food and Wine Pairing 101

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by Mike Reifeiss
Owner/Operator of Aall In Limo

Wine has a very long history and tradition, with the earliest production dating back to 6,000 BCmussels wine in the Balkan region. It is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented grapes or other fruit. The natural chemical balance allows for fermentation without any addition of sugar, acids, water, enzymes or other nutrients. (Photo – red curry mussels courtesy Charlie Palmer, South Coast Plaza)

Different varieties of grapes produce different types of wine. Nowadays wine is usually made from one or two types of European grape species Vitis vinifera, such as:

  • Pinot Noir
  • Chardonnay
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Gamay
  • Merlot

Who knows the secret of a perfect wine and food match?

Emerging in the 14th century as trained wine professionals, sommeliers have evolved and developed culinary art rules and connections for a stunning gastronomic experience. Sommeliers today are the conductors of marital harmony of food and wine in restaurants and hotels. The largest expansion of professional sommeliers is related to the development of tourism. They are perfectly capable of giving information about the varieties of grapes and quality of wine, but also about which type of wine improves the quality of a specific dish. A sommelier’s job is to recommend the perfect choice for an unforgettable lunch or dinner. Perfect pairing of food and wine can be achieved by understanding certain aspects and by following a few simple rules.

Rules to follow for a great experience

To create a perfect pairing of food and wine, the first secret is to combine sweet and sour. Wine flavors are derived from sugar, acid, tannin and alcohol. So combining taste with texture is essential.

  • Bitter food should not be paired with any high tannin wine.
  • Wine should not be sweeter than food.
  • Wine should have higher acidity than the food or at least equal to the food.
  • Fatty elements of the food are quite good balanced by the acid and tannin of the wine.
  • Wine should be sweeter than desert.

Pairing wine and food

Respecting the texture of wine and food, anybody can find in these pairs a perfect and an inspired match.

  • Dry white wine with fish, vegetables and roasted vegetables
  • Sweet white wine with soft cheese, hard cheese, cured meat and sweets
  • Rich white wine with soft cheese, fatty fish, white meat and starches
  • Sparkling wine with vegetables, soft cheese, hard cheese, starches and fish
  • Red light wine with roasted vegetables, fatty fish, white meat and cured meat
  • Medium wine with roasted vegetables, white meat, red meat and cured meat
  • Bold red wine with hard cheese, red meat and cured meat
  • Dessert wine with soft cheese, cured meat and sweets

Foods without pair

The most difficult foods to combine with any type of wine are:

  • Asparagus
  • Green been
  • Artichoke
  • Brussels sprout
  • Tomato – only with something more acidic like an Italian red wine
  • Chocolate – only if the chocolate is dark and the wine is sweet

Example for combined food and wine

When summer comes, salad is welcomed for peak of the season flavor and abundance. Generally, herbs pair perfectly with wine with herbal notes such as Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Here are few examples:

  • Caesar salad, with or without chicken goes with a Chenin Blanc
  • Greek salad goes with a dry white Bordeaux

Roasted or grilled fruits and vegetable dishes are now common in the summer, thanks to the Mediterranean cuisine. White dry wine is a perfect match for them. Light meats, fish and picnic food go with a Californian or Australian Chardonnay or with a White Burgundy. Fruit desserts demand sweet wines like Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venice or German Riesling.

Suggestions for “les connaiseurs”

Good wine and food make everybody happy. Harmony of the tastes and flavors can turn a usual day into a perfect one. For anyone interested in a professional wine tasting experience, the Californian Temecula Valley has a lot to offer. Daily wine tours are available from companies such as Aall in Limo, a San Diego based limo company specializing in these types of events.

What do you think? Tell us your favorite pairings – we’re happy to hear about and try them!