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Food Suggestions

Food and Wine Pairing Guidelines

Drink what you like.

What you like to drink always takes precedence over any recommendation that I might make.

Start by thinking about the dominant characteristics of the whole dish

  • Is it mild or flavourful?
  • Is it fatty or lean?
  • Is it rich or acidic?
  • Watch the sauce – a sauce will dominate so match the wine to the sauce if, for example, chicken with a mushroom sauce.

With these characteristics in mind, select a wine that will help keep the flavours balanced so:-

  • Match mild foods with mild wines. Match big, flavourful foods with big, flavourful wines. Pair a bold-flavoured Pepper Steak with a spicy, bold red Syrah/Shiraz or Grenache. Similarly you generally want to match the richness of the food and the richness of the wine, for example, rich Chicken in Cream Sauce with a rich Chardonnay.

If you're eating a relatively rich, 'fatty' dish and thinking about drinking a red wine

Dishes such as Lamb require a red wine which has good structure, that is to say it has good tannins and acid balance so the palate feels clean afterwards. Bordeaux, burgundy, Chianti, Nebbiolo are examples.

If you're eating a very rich, 'fatty' dish and thinking about drinking a white wine

Look for contrast and, once again, something with good, cleansing acidity. (NB. Acidity in a wine is essential but not to be confused with a wine being, apparently, ‘acidic’) you probably want to contrast the meal with a refreshingly crisp acidic wine; Sancerre or similar Sauvignon Blanc.

  • Also worth noting that a fatty dish is not the same as ‘rich’. Fried chicken (Kentucky style) is fatty – drink a crisp Sauvignon. Chicken in a cream sauce is rich, and would be better with a good Chardonnay.

Acidic foods

Shrimp with Lemon or Pasta with Tomato Sauce these need wines with good structure and acidity, Muscadet, Picpul, Sauvignon and so on. Acidic Wines and Cream Don't Mix - so no to Muscadet or Sauvignon but yes to oaked chardonnay

Wine and Strong Spices

Strong spices, such as hot chili peppers in some Chinese or Indian food, can clash and destroy the flavours in a wine. In most cases, wine is not the ideal thing to drink. That said, if you want to drink wine then it must be fruit driven with no hard edges and preferably not bone dry. Rosé can work if not too dry, Riesling the same – reds, soft, easy style of shiraz or Grenache. The wine needs to have some element of sweetness or ripeness which is not to be confused with being a sweet wine.

Cheese

  • Stlton and strong blue chesses - Tawny Port, any decent dessert or pudding wine such as Sauternes, Gewurztraminer, Muscat or sweet dark Olorosso Sherry. Red wine – needs to be big and bold such as a Shiraz
  • Soft, rich cheeses. Sancerre, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, lighter Chardonnay. Red, Pinot Noir would be my first choice.
  • Hard cheeses. Richer red wines.

To really simplify...

Most regional foods are created over time to go with the local wines, if you're eating Italian food, think about having an Italian wine.

Some ideas

  • Fish No sauce – Sauvignon, Champagne, Pinot Bianco.
  • Crab Best with dry Riesling (just is)
  • Shellfish, Oysters Chablis, Muscadet, Picpoul, Champagne
  • Scallops Chardonnay
  • Salmon, fresh sardines Pinot Noir – mature burgundy, works really well
  • Ham Good Chablis
  • Beef – simple. Any good red, particularly Bordeaux, Cabernet
  • Beef with rich sauce. Chateauneuf-du-pape, good Rhone, shiraz
  • Casseroles Burgundy, good Pinot Noir, Italian
  • Tomato based sauces Chianti, Barbera – Italian usually better than anything else.
  • Pork – simple. Beaujolais, Sauvignon, simple Chardonnay
  • Richer or with sauce Riesling works, good Beaujolais
  • Lamb Chianti, Nebbiolo, Pinot Noir
  • Stews, mutton Gamier, so Bordeaux etc. (watch mint sauce as will clash with anything)
  • Chicken, turkey If simple roast then Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, good cru Beaujolais but if in a sauce or fried rules as above.
  • Game Rioja, Burgundy, Barolo

Veg to Watch

  • Mushrooms Don’t be fooled into thinking these are background, Pinot Noir is a great match for the earthy flavours.
  • Tomatoes Will make any softer, fruity red seem bitter.
  • A green vegetable dish will need something like Chablis

Desserts

  • Fruit – apple pie etc. Sauternes, Loire late harvest wines
  • Chocolate Difficult. Moscato, Bracchetto, Muscat, some Ports – some off dry Champagnes can work.

Taste types

Salty

As foods become more salty, their own flavours tend to increase and neutralize bitter and sour tastes of the wine tasted after salty foods. Saltiness in the food creates an impression of less bitterness in the wine. Some people make a habit of putting a little salt on Granny Smith and other "tart" apples. This is done to soften the sourness and bitterness, making the apple seem more mild in taste. Proper seasoning of meat-based sauces is important to negate the savory compounds produced in the cooking process which can unfavourably impact the taste of the accompanying wine.

Sour

Natural acids impart tartness or sourness of food or wine. Most wines that have sweetness, such as White Zinfandel and many Rieslings, also have a very high acidity to keep the wine from tasting flat or cloying. If a food reacts in a way that suppresses the sourness of such wines, they will taste very sweet in comparison. Dry wines tend to taste more acidic because they do not have the sweetness balancing and covering the sour taste. White wines tend to be higher in acidity than red wines.

Sweet

Sweetness is found in many foods and wines. Sometimes we do not really think of certain types of sauces or foods as "sweet" when in actuality they are, such as teriyaki, cocktail sauce and other tomato sauces. Often vegetables and certainly fruits can add a degree of sweetness to a dish and must be considered when making a wine selection. There is a wide range of sweetness levels in many beverages and foods. Our individual expectations will dictate the desirability of levels of sweetness. This is expressed in many ways: how we take our coffee or tea, what kind of chocolates we like, the balance of a wine, etc. The desirability of a wine and food combination that effects the sweetness of the wine depends entirely on the preference of the individual experiencing the combination. A combination that raises the sweetness of a wine may be delicious to someone who appreciates a sweeter wine, while the same combination is considered unsatisfactory for someone who prefers a drier wine. When food is sweet it will suppress the sweetness of the wine served with it through sensory adaptation.

Savory

Savory, or umami in Japanese, has gained acceptance by food scientists as a fifth taste, separate from the tastes sweet, sour (acid), salty and bitter. The prototype for savory taste is found naturally occurring in almost all food to some degree. Umami was identified by the Japanese researcher Ikeda in 1908 as the taste in laminaria Japonica seaweed, used as a component of soup stocks in Japanese cuisine, and was associated with glutamate (monosodium L-glutamic acid). Later, ribonucleotides were discovered as having umami taste and also having a synergistic effect with glutamates that greatly enhance the perception of the umami taste. Umami is more prevalent and often found in higher concentrations in Asian cuisines. Western palates do not as easily recognize umami because we have never been taught to identify it. As with other tastes, the umami taste is many times hidden behind stronger tastes like saltiness. The umami taste in food can have an effect on taste elements of a wine that is served with it, bringing out bitter and often metallic tastes. The reaction between umami and wine can be negated by salty tastes in food.

Bitter

Bitterness is often confused with astringency and is similar to astringency in its interaction with food. A bitter taste is commonly found in some green vegetables (endive, arugula, radicchio) and herbs, many spices, some fruits, or food charred during the cooking process. Bitterness is extracted from many foods during cooking, especially at high temperatures. This also occurs when you boil tea instead of gently steeping it. Food with bitter components seems to increase the bitterness of a wine served with it. Make sure that the herbal-smelling Sauvignon Blanc chosen to serve with the dish with lots of fresh herbs does not push the bitterness of the wine over the top.

Astringency

There are tactile sensations, such as astringency, imparted by wine and food, which can react in combination. Astringency (mostly from tannins in wine, fruit such as a persimmon, and vegetables) is the most prevalent of these sensations. These sensations of touch are important along with taste in determining the basic reaction potential between different wine and food combinations and were once thought to actually be a sensation of taste. The "tannic" taste of a wine is actually a sense of touch and not of taste. Tannins coagulate proteins in your mouth and create a puckering or drying sensation known as astringency. Consumers who think that this sensation is what is meant by a "dry wine" very often misinterpret this sensation. A "dry" wine is simply not sweet. Astringency in wine is accentuated by food that is sweet or "hot" (spicy) and is suppressed by foods that are acidic, salty, fatty.

The most dramatic example of this can be demonstrated by eating a bit of soft-ripened bleu cheese followed by a taste of tannic red wine. A small percentage of people will find a strong reaction to bitterness with this combination due to a high sensitivity to this taste.

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