Pairing wine and food is not a perfect science and different palates will offer lots of different opinions – some of them often unpalatably obnoxiously. However, there are some pairings that simply don’t cut the mustard and it can be easy to ruin a delicious dish, and even easier to ruin your favourite wine.
Spice in food
Spicy food is very prickly and if not paired well, alcohol can increase the ‘chili burn’. Whilst some people find pleasure in that, it’s more often met with pain. Choosing a light and low alcohol wine is commonly advised, which is why beer often goes so well with curry. Pick something below 10% ABV and you’ll set the dish alight, rather than your mouth on fire.
The rule for pairing with sweet foods is one of the easiest – beat the sweet. Dessert wines are there for a reason. If you’re having a very sweet dessert, then dry wines will seem flabby and lacklustre against the sugar, which decreases the perception of body and fruitiness. If sweet wines aren’t your style, then there’s no harm in a port instead.
Salty foods are a wine lover’s paradise. Luckily, salty foods will often increase the perception of body, meaning it can sometimes improve lesser wines. Astringency, the mouth puckering sensation like the skin of the green apple, can also be softened by salty foods. Should you be drinking an inferior quality wine, then some salted almonds or even crisps would pep up the wine.
Acidity is also often a good thing for wine and food pairing. However, low acid wines often don’t match up to their acidic wine counterparts. An easy way to remember the rule of thumb is to remember the classic pairing of oysters and champagne – a high acid wine complements the lemon on the oysters perfectly.
Umami in food
Umami is a primary flavour, just like sweetness and acidity, but it’s incredibly hard to isolate and often not easy to pair either. Cooked mushrooms and miso soup are good examples of traditional umami flavours. It is often present with other flavours such as salt, which is easier to pair, but other umami-rich and salt-low foods such as asparagus and mushrooms can be much harder. The main thing to remember is that low-tannin reds and most whites will not pair well with these foods – so play it safe and pick a full bodied, fruity, high tannin red.