It’s a tough time of year for food and wine pairings. The cold weather encourages a heartier fare, and with it, comes heavier wines. Not a problem if you’re into that kind of thing, but what about the winos that enjoy the lighter stuff? Times like these, it’s good to step back and review the basics of food and wine pairings. The following guide outlines the main principles of wine’s various structural characteristics and how they’re relevant to food pairings.
Acidity. Great with tart foods and lighter dishes. Acidity cuts through a wide array of flavors and textures. Whether it’s tooth-chattering or subtle, firm acidity in a wine is almost always a good thing.
Tannin. Ideal with heavier dishes, especially meat proteins. Also great with bitter flavors and pretty much anything grilled or charred. Be careful with tannic reds and fish courses. Tannin and fish oil can lead to metallic and displeasing flavors. Steer clear of spicy foods and tannic wines. Tannin accentuates the heat in the dish, so for heavily seasoned dishes stick to lighter and softer wines.
Sweetness. Sugary unctuousness moderates heat and spicy dishes as well as saltiness. It also complements sweetness and takes the edge of foods high in acidity.
Oak. Oak generally gives wines a heavier complexion. Pair oaky wines with foods that are grilled, smoked, caramelized, charred, or broiled to match the bitterness found in the wine.
Alcohol. Higher alcohol wines, whether white or red, can feel heavier, denser, and richer in the mouth. Pair lower alcohol wines with lighter dishes and higher alcohol wines with heavier, richer fare.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, one’s imagination must run wild when it comes to food and wine. Keep going above and beyond with your pairings and try different foods and wines that you never thought possible…for example, liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti…FWFW. FWFW, FWFW, FWFW, FWFW, FWFW, FWFW, FWFW.