What could this random collection of words have to do with one another? Yes, like the title says, wine (I promise, the last one). I can’t report that I came up with it myself – a Master Sommelier did – but I do find it very helpful when it comes to pairing wine and food. And while the practice is entirely subjective, these four theories can lead you to wonderful, personalized food and wine experiences.
Disaster. The example given at the Court of Master Sommeliers seminar was “oysters and Cabernet Sauvignon”. Oysters are so delicate and the big, bold red wine so dry and tannic, it is a match made in, well, the other place. Another disastrous pairing might be Pinot Grigio and a porterhouse steak. Light and fruity doesn’t really jive with charred and fatty.
Switzerland. I love this one. We’ve all made fun of the Swiss at one time or another for being, well, uninvolved (sorry Switzerland). And this can happen with food and wine. There’s food on the plate and wine in the glass, but everyone’s minding their own business. No excitement. No pizzaz. No meddling. But no complementary flavors, either. Switzerland.
Solo Act. For many people in many careers, the solo act is the epitome of success. Lead actor, executive chef, chief operating officer, attending surgeon, president. We get it. But it’s not a nice concept with wine pairing. If just the wine or just the dish overpower the other, you may as well not have bothered. It would be an incredible waste of food or wine, or both.
Magic. This is the goal – harmony at the table among all players. The flavors and intensities of both the food and the wine complement each other, yet taste better with each ensuing bite and sip. But how, you might ask? To no surprise, I tell you below.
But not before I announce my weekend wasn’t a complete waste of time – I passed the first level exam and received my introductory certificate into the world of wine professionals. So cheers, salud, santé, prost and opa!
Food & Wine Pairing Tips
Weight with weight. Eat seafood with Chablis, not heavy red wines. Drink Zinfindel while eating lamb. For crowd pleasers with a range of food, try Chardonnay or Pinot Noir.
Acids with acids, dust with dust. The dust part was just for fun, but if you have food that is high in acid, such as a vinaigrette, briny seafood or tart goat cheese, enjoy them with a light white wine that is also high in acid. Candidates: Sauvignon Blanc, dry Riesling or Chablis (France’s version of a light and bright Chardonnay).
Fish hate tannins. Or in other words, the fatty oils in fish such as salmon and tuna get even fishier when eaten while drinking a bold, dry red wine. But hey, if you want your fish even fishier, you do what you want with your own taste buds.
Tannins love meat. The mouth-drying effect of a bold red wine such an Italian Barolo or Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is perfectly balanced by red meat. They’ve actually done scientific studies on the effect of this pairing on your salivary glands. But for the sake of brevity just take it from me, it’s magic.
Sweets need sugar. The wine must be sweeter than the food. This is why all those dessert wines like Sauternes and Germany’s Trokenbeerenauselese (trok-in-bear-en-ow-sa-lay-za) are listed on the dessert menu. Dry wines ruin the flavors of sweet dishes and their components. But Port and molten chocolate cake = magic. Portopouris!
Beware of green things. Bitter green vegetables like asparagus and artichokes are notorious for turning the flavors of great wines metallic. If these are on the plate, either make sure they are cooked extensively (grilled or roasted), or paired with light white wines with herbal notes. Choices: Gruner Vetliner from Austria, or a Sauvignon Blanc.
The Triple S Rule. Salty, smoky, spicy. If the food in front of you is one, both or all three – choose wisely. Acidic wines such as dry sparkling wines, Riesling and Chenin Blanc balance the heat and salt well. A red wine does not – it will not even be close to magical. Champagne works best in my book. See here about its effect on Cheetos.