The Perfect Mix

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“This festive season, try having your roasted lamb with a bottle of red wine or chicken or fish with white wine, unlike the usual beers you use to wash down your food! You’ll discover a new journey that you should have started way back,” says Geoffrey Kariuki, in-house sommelier at Artcaffe coffee and bakery.

First, you need to know that the whole point of pairing food and wine is to make both taste better than they would individually. Follow these tips for successful wine and food pairing.

Identify the Taste Profile of The Meal You’re Going to Cook.

Note down a few key features. Is it sweet, sour, salty or bitter? Will you use curry or chilies or none of those? Taste elements and the intensity of the flavours can either interfere with or complement the wine you pick. Once you know the flavours you are working with, you can figure out how you want the wine to interact with your food.

Subtle V/S Loud

Keep in mind that if you’re working with subtle flavours in your food, you might not want to overwhelm them with a loud and fruity wine like Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz. Get a variety like the gentle Pinot Noir for reds, or a lightly oaked Chardonnay for whites. However, if your meal is screaming with flavour, you probably want to pair it with a fruity, tannic wine that can hold its own like my favourite red variety Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon or a red Bordeaux.

Alcohol Content

If you are cooking an oriental cuisine or any spicy dish, note that wines lower in alcohol (13% or less) can provide some much-needed relief from the spiciness. Chilli in food can make a wine seem more bitter, astringent and acidic, and high levels of alcohol will increase the burning sensation from the food. My recommendations would be varieties like German off-dry Riesling, Alsace or German Silvaner and Gewurztraminer.

Sweetness

Sweetness in food can make dry wine lose its fruit and be unpleasantly acidic, so for any dishes containing a high level of sugar you’re best off choosing a wine just as sweet or even sweeter than the food you are about to prepare. (Sweet wines match very spicy or salty foods.)

Balance

You should look for a wine with the flavours, aromas, and weight that most closely match the characteristics of your meal. It’s all about balance and in most cases, I try to match my meals’ sauces to a wine, rather than the protein. It’s ideal to pair light wines with light meals and light sauces and full bodied wine with hearty meals containing flavourful sauces.

Body

Body in wine is the actual weight or thickness of a wine, or how a wine feels in the mouth. Light wines are comparable to the feel of water in your mouth while full-bodied wines feel more like heavy cream. In terms of body, it is usually advisable to look for complimentary features to pair light-bodied wines with lighter food, and full-bodied wines with heartier food. For this reason, full-bodied whites, such as oaken Chardonnays, often do not pair well with delicate seafood, and lighter reds, such as Beaujolais, don’t do justice to a hearty steak but will pair well with chicken or pork. Some of the classic pairings; full-bodied Chardonnay with thick cream or butter-based sauces, mediumbodied Pinot Noir with salmon, light-bodied Sauvignon Blanc with delicate fish.

Stand-Alone

If you are looking for an easy drinking wine that should go by itself or with food, focus on the new world. These are countries like South Africa, Chile, Argentina, USA, New Zealand, Australia or any other country that started the winemaking practice except Europe and parts of the Mediterranean.

Vintage

If you have a vintage bottle of wine, bear in mind that they tend to be more subtle and their flavours less flamboyant, so avoid a wildly complex dish with it. A simple dish will allow the wine to be the centre of attention.

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