(why we were put on this earth)
Yes, pairing food and wine is an art form, not a science. This is very important to keep in mind, as the number one rule of pairing is:
Drink Wine that You Like
We may think that the best wine in the world to have with barbeque ribs is Petite Sirah, but if you hate Petite Sirah, then try something else.
A lot of this is trial and error. It's based heavily on your personal food likes and dislikes, but there are a few tips that can help you experiment more successfully.
Stick with the Food's Origins
Wine and food pairing is very organic and has evolved over thousands of years. Wines generally go well with foods produced in the same regions. Eating French? Drink French. Eating Italian? Drink Italian.
Identify the Food Style
• Is the food heavy and thick?
• Does acid play a key role (e.g. lots of tomatoes, vinegar or citrus)?
• Is the food really hot and spicy (from curries or hot peppers)?
• Does cream dominate the dish?
• Rich, powerful, fatty dishes like those based around red meat or fried foods need a wine that can stand up to them. Something like a Cabernet Sauvignon has a lot of body, and also has good tannic acid that balances the power of the food so your mouth doesn't get all bogged down in flavors. A nice acidic wine (Chianti for red or Riesling for white) can cut right through heavy fats making the dish seem much lighter.
• Foods with a lot of acid need a wine with a lot of acid so that they balance each other out. Drink a round, full bodied wine with low acid, and it will just taste plain flabby. (Try this for yourself - have some shrimp in a light lemon, caper and olive oil sauce, and pair it with a classic California buttery Chardonnay. Seafood and white wine go well together, right? Wrong. The acid in the lemons and capers will flatten the Chard and make it taste downright pathetic.)
• Spicy foods are tough to match with wine as hot spices tend to accent the alcohol. Beer is generally the best way to go. However, you can find some great spicy Thai or Indian dishes that pair very well with wine. To combat the spice, go with a flavorful and aromatic wine with a touch of sugar in it, as sugar calms the spice. Very few reds will fit this bill, so stick with a cool Riesling or Gewurztraminer.
• For creamy foods, think creamy wine. Wines can taste very creamy when they undergo malolactic fermentation (converting of malic acid to lactic acid). High acid wines tend to clash with creamy foods (think of how Guinness curdles Baileys in an Irish Car Bomb). However, wine with just a touch of acid can cut through the fat and cream and work very well. An Italian Amarone has just the right amount of acid to cut through the fat intensity of an aged Pecorino Romano cheese.
The Food Pairing Search Engine
So experiment, have fun, and let us know what works for you. If you have a fantastic pairing, please share it with us and our other users: firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to add your recipes and matches to our database.
And speaking of the database, if you're still lost or just looking for inspiration, this is your best friend. Search by wine or ingredient and tell us what you think!