There is no such thing as the perfect wine and food pairing; they do not exist except in the mind of the individual making the pairing. When it comes to selecting a wine to pair with food, don’t be too fancy.
Select a wine that you would want to drink by itself. Then consider the weight (or body) of the dish and the wine, respectively. This is where common sense comes into play. The old rule of “red wine with red meats” and “white wine with white meats,” is simply that…old…and shouldn’t be followed. Instead, serve light food with light-bodied wines, heavy foods with full-bodied wines, dry foods with dry wines, and sweet foods with sweet wines. Pair food to wine, not wine to food. Wine is a relatively constant element, whereas the taste of food can be altered. Adjust food recipes to create a better marriage between the two. The intensity of the wine—white, red, or rosé should always match that of the food; subtly flavored foods require subtly flavored wines. As the complexity and intensity of the food increases, so should the complexity and intensity of the wine. Accompany strongly flavored foods with strongly flavored wines. When you want the food to dominate, the wine should be submissive. Conversely, if the wine is to dominate, then the food should be submissive.
Good food appeals to all five senses. It should be attractive to look at, a pleasure to smell, feel good in the mouth, and, of course appeal to the taste.
The four key points to consider when pairing wine with food are:
- The major ingredients in the food
- The predominate flavor in finished food
- The texture of finished food
- The cooking method used
It’s not the flavor or texture of the food you are matching, but rather the cooking method, taste of herbs, seasonings, and its sauce. The sauce can change the character of the food that affects the choice of wine. Few people eat freshly cooked pasta without sauce; it’s the sauce you are matching. Pasta’s texture should be al dente (firm to the bite), not overcooked, and reduced to a mushy, slimy, mash (or mess).
Wines should either complement or contrast with foods…not clash! Most often, foods and wines are combined based on similarity of sensations, yet occasionally true harmony results from a contrast. Clashing is when you brushed your teeth, then drank a glass of orange juice, or, have a sip of milk right after you have eaten a grapefruit. Your mouth immediately goes into taste shock, which is quite unpleasant.
The greatest wine in the world is the one that gives you the most pleasure. It reflects your personal philosophy. What is the perfect painting, rosé champagne, color blue, female or male body or model? According to Webster…perfect is…Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder—for every old pot there is a lid.
“The pairing of food and wine is a complex and highly inexact science. It is fraught with out-moded rules and a propensity for generalizations.” (Sid Goldstein, The Wine Lover’s Cookbook)
The only unbreakable rule is to follow the dictates of common sense.