There’s a time honoured method for choosing wine to go with your meal. Look for a bottle in the supermarket that costs roughly £5, marked down from roughly £10, picking red wine or white wine depending on what mood you’re in. I’m not mocking you, incidentally. That’s a perfectly good system and one I myself use on a regular basis.
But going to the effort of finding the right wine to suit the dish you’re preparing can really bring a meal together. Plus, everyone is secretly intimidated by somebody who looks like they understand wines.
So how do you do it? Well, coincidentally, that’s exactly what the rest of this article is about.
Keep an Open Mind
The first thing to do is remember that any advice your given, no matter how authoritatively it’s delivered or how posh the accent of the person giving it, is merely a guideline. Experimenting with new combinations, or simply going to with one that is old and familiar, is nothing to be ashamed of. Drinking wine and eating a meal is something it’s very hard to fail at.
Compare and Contrast
Putting tastes together is a lot like putting colours together. Sometimes it’s best to put like with like, sometimes opposites attract. This is known as wine that “matches” or “complements” the taste of the food, as opposed to wine that “contrasts” with it. Contrasts are good for counterbalancing the stronger flavours in a dish – that’s why, for example, sweet wines tend to go well with very spicy dishes.
However there are times where mismatched flavours can actively spoil your enjoyment. Pay attention to that- if a wine you love doesn’t taste as great as you remember it, see what flavours you were pairing it with to work out what the problem as.
There’s More to it Than Taste
Taste is just one factor to take into account when pairing food and wine. You should also take into account the wine’s “mouthfeel”, which is exactly what it sounds like. As well as the flavours you need to consider the texture, the weight, and the smell of the wine, while also considering the ingredients and methods of cooking being used for the food.
Keep It Simple Stupid
This should be obvious, but when it comes to selecting the meal, try to use one that has fairly simple, straight forward flavours. It’s easier to find a wine that fits simpler flavours than it is to find one for more complex dishes.
See How it Fits Together
The most crucial step here is to make sure the elements you’ve chosen taste good together. There’s a simple, step by step process to this. Take a mouthful of wine. Roll it around your mouth, making sure it touches every part of your tongue. Swallow the wine and take a moment to think about what you tasted and smelled. Look for berry, fruit and wood-like flavours. Decide how much it weighed on your tongue. Was it water? Treacle-like? Was it sweet, or more acidic?
When searching for food to match it to, pick out one characteristic from the wine that will match it. If it’s a meal with a thick sauce, for instance, a wine with a heavier texture might fit. A dish that uses a lot of lemony flavours might suit a lighter, more acidic wine. Turkey recipes that make use of cranberry sauce might work with something a bit more fruity.
Now for the final step, you want to try the wine with the food. Cut off a small piece, chew it, and swallow it. Just like the wine, consider its taste, texture and the aftertaste. Consider how it tastes with the wine flavours still on your tongue. If the experience is pleasant, you’re onto a winner. If it’s not, you clearly need to try more wines.