10 Unspoken Rules of Food and Wine Pairing

Wine Pairing is a Bit Like Baking a Good Cake

Just like a pinch of salt is vital to bringing out the flavour of a cake, it is also essential to have the right wine with the right food to get the taste experience just right. Here are a few guidelines to bear in mind when pairing food and wine.

1. Prestigious with Prestigious, Humble with Humble
The first and most important principle is simply to have fancy wines with fancy food, and to have simpler wines with simpler foods. There is absolutely no need to have a pricey Pinot Noir with a ham and pickle sandwich. Conversely, having expensive tenderloin on the menu may present the perfect opportunity to open that bottle of lush Bordeaux you have been savwine and fooding.

2. Delicate Flavours vs. Bold Flavours
Again, the idea is to match the wine to the food, and that means taking the flavour into consideration as well. A robust Shiraz could beautifully balance a bold curry, while it would overwhelm a delicate sole au gratin.

3. Contrast or Mirror?
In some cases, you may want to create a taste sensation by mirroring flavours. For example, a Chardonnay with creamy seafood pasta. At other times, it works better going in opposite directions, juxtaposition in food can be exciting and delectable. Seafood pasta can also be enjoyed with something sleek, crisp, and tingling like Champagne.

4. Go for Something Flexible
Chardonnay is delicious on its own, but is so full-bodied that it could taste dull and hard with certain foods. If you are uncertain, go with a Riesling or a Sauvignon Blanc to be safe. The most flexible reds are Burgundy, Chianti, and other wines that have more fruit and less tannin.

5. Fruity with Fruity
When serving dishes that contain fruit, like duck with figs or pork with apples and cider, pair with fruity wines such as Muscat or Riesling.

6. Acidity and Saltiness
Salty food works well with the acidity in wine. Imagine how well Champagne would pair with smoked salmon or a good Chianti with Parmesan cheese. Asian dishes with a lot of salty soy sauce go particularly well with wines that are high in acidity like Riesling.

7. Sweetness and Saltiness
Pairing salty dishes with sweeter wines can create a delicious fusion of flavours. This is what has made the old European tradition of serving salty Stilton cheese with sweet Port so successful.

8. High-Fat Food and Robust Wines
Food with a lot of butter, cream, or animal fat needs an intense and rich wine. Good quality Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon works particularly well with dishes like grilled steak with creamy sauce, or duck.

9. What about Umami?
Known as the fifth taste in addition to sweetness, sourness, bitterness, and saltiness, umami is being used more often in contemporary cuisine with flavours from foods like soy sauce and wild mushrooms. Adding umami heightens the overall experience, so adding wild mushrooms to a steak with Cabernet Sauvignon further enriches an already sensational pairing.

10. Watch out for the Sweet Stuff
When pairing wine with desserts, consider the level of sweetness. The sweetness of the dessert could easily knock out the character of the wine, and a very sweet dessert can cause wine to taste dull. The ideal marriage is between a reasonably sweet wine, and a slightly less sweet dessert like a fruit or nut tart.

Food and Wine Bliss

 

Finally, in addition to observing these guidelines, the best route to successful pairing is through experimentation, which is also the most enjoyable way to learn this particular skill.

Australian Wine in the Headlines

The annual Australia Day celebrations have reminded us about Australian wine again – and perhaps it’s useful to have a reminder this year, as Australian wines don’t seem to be as dominant in the marketplace as they once were. It seems like much more shelf space was dedicated to Australia a decade ago – perhaps our interest in Australia’s budget and mid-range wines reached its peak and then dropped off slightly as other wine-making nations emerged. That’s not to say that Australia’s wines are performing badly in the marketplace – their wine exports were up 14% in value last year, although this is not reflective of how they are performing here in the UK, where growth has been relatively slow at 0.2%.

A problem of perception
australia wine

At the top end of the market, Australia still struggles slightly with how its finest wines are perceived, particularly in the on-trade where they are often under-represented in favour of their high-end counterparts from Europe. Australia’s fine wines are plentiful, and extend far beyond its most famous names, Penfold’s Grange and Henschke’s Hill of Grace. Unfortunately many of the top wines from smaller producers are yet to trickle through to the European market.

Consistent vintagesaustralia-wine-section

Australia’s climate is much more reliable than that of France and other leading Old World wine producing countries, nor have they struggled with drought like the Californians have done of late. That means there are no bad vintages to speak of, their best wines are consistently good and just as ageworthy as their Old World equivalents. There is also a good deal more freedom when it comes to deciding what grapes to grow and how the blend is made up. Some of the finest Australian wines are Bordeaux-like but with a proportion of Shiraz in the blend, a grape that is not grown in Bordeaux. Shiraz loves the Australian soil and adds weight, complexity and softness to the blend. Rhone-style blends are also common.

The best is yet to come

At the lower end of the market it is worth noting that modern Australian wines have much more subtlety and delicacy than earlier versions, and it is likely that the best are yet to come. At the top end, a recent free trade agreement with Korea has encouraged sales, and certainly it seems like the ‘buzz’ around Australian wines has been renewed. For investors, the message seems to be “watch this space”.

What will 2016 bring for the fine wine investor?

wine Field

A less than desirable picture was emerging from the Liv-ex 50 in November 2015, with First Growths down 40% since the market’s peak. First growths and top Sauternes have struggled slightly, together with the second wines of top Chateaux that showed so much promise in recent years. However this is not the full picture – when we look at the second, third, fourth and fifth growths, we start to see some very positive signs for the year ahead, and reminds us once again that there is much more to Bordeaux than just the First Growths.

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Meet the little device that could change the way we drink fine wine

Meet the little device that could change the way we drink fine wine

For the past 12 months the wine industry has been intrigued by a new device known as the Coravin, which you may have heard of if you read the wine press regularly. This clever device allows us to draw wine out of the bottle without removing the cork, thereby allowing the consumer to enjoy a glass while leaving the remaining wine preserved as it was before for future consumption.

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Bordeaux’s 2014 vintage – the story so far

A real buzz surrounded the release of Mouton Rothschild’s 2014 vintage on 28th April – not least because the opening price is lower than any other physical vintage of Mouton’s. At only a few pounds per bottle more than the 2013 , which is also still in barrel, it’s exciting news, and offers some hope following the recent murmurings that En Primeur would cease to exist if no enthusiasm could be generated about this year’s campaign.

Award-winning wines
Bordeaux’s 2014 vintage

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Wines for spring – try something different!

If springtime is usually when you start phasing out red and drinking more white, then make this the year that you think outside the box and try something different. Today we’re looking at some creative suggestions for springtime drinks that might just surprise you.

Try new beverages and think outside the box
Try new beverages and think outside the box

Dry Sherry

If your only experience of Sherry is a glass of Bristol Cream on Christmas day, it’s time to think again as there is far more to this complex drink than the cream style that was largely developed for the British market. The Spaniards know that there is nothing more delightful to sip in the sunshine than a chilled Fino or Manzanilla sherry alongside some of their local cuisine. Forget everything you thought you knew about Sherry and give it a try – great with tapas, soup or salad. Continue reading