Simple Guidelines for Food and Wine Pairing
Jeff’s Corner 10-27-17
Hello, and here we go…….
I’ve been getting lots of questions lately about food and wine pairings, so here are some real simple guidelines. Next week, we’ll dig a little deeper into pairing wine with cheese. Hopefully this might come in handy with the holidays around the corner.
Remember the old guideline we’ve always heard, that we should pair white wine with white meat and red wine with red meat? Well, there is some underlying truth to that, but it’s a little more complicated.
First, let’s check out what types of wine pair well with food. We want a white wine with crisp acidity, and a red wine with soft tannins. It should be dry or slightly sweet, with low to moderate alcohol, maybe 11-13% by volume. We also want somewhat subdued flavors, ruling out many of the high alcohol fruit bombs from California. Texas wines, especially ours, are very food friendly.
It’s important to note that most wines go with most foods, but let’s examine what can happen when wine and food come together. What we want with a pairing is “enhancement”. This is when the wine and food together improve the enjoyment of both. The sum is more than the parts.
What we want to avoid is “suppression”. This occurs when the two clash, and the parts are better than the sum. When the pairing is neutral, meaning void of enhancement or suppression, the pairing is aptly called “Swiss”.
The most important guideline in pairings is to match the body and texture of the wine, with the body and texture of the food. We want lighter wines with lighter foods (whites with fish, for example) and heavier wines with heavier foods (reds with steak). We never want one to overpower the other.
Keep in mind, however, it’s not just the food itself, but also its method of preparation. A shrimp, for example, is medium textured and fairly neutral in flavor. A shrimp functions as a foil to showcase how it is prepared.
A shrimp cocktail is simple, spicy, and light in texture. Spicy foods do well with slightly sweet, low alcohol wines. A crisp Riesling, around 2% residual sugar, is great.
Next, we’ll elevate the texture and prepare a shrimp scampi. The garlic butter is going to coat our palate with fat. Acidity cuts through the fat and cleanses our palate, so a dry white high in acid like a Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc would be excellent.
Finally, let’s create even more body and texture with a shrimp Alfredo. We’ve raised the bar by adding Pecorino Romano and heavy cream. Here, a light bodied red with good acidity and soft tannins, such as a Pinot Noir, would do well.
Why does red wine have such a love affair with steak? Well, it has to do with the fat in the steak and the tannin in the wine. When we take a bite of a nice juicy steak, fat and protein coat our mouth. When we follow with a sip of red wine, the tannin bonds with the fat and cleanses our palate. This softens the tannin and opens up the fruit, getting us ready for our next bite of steak. The more rare the steak, the more tannin it will tolerate.
As always, thanks for tuning in, and don’t touch that dial…