People have been following the same rule of “white wine with fish and red wine with meat” for too long. It’s not completely untrue – white wine will generally go with fish and dark will generally go well with meat, but there are so many more things you can be paying attention to and getting some amazing results. So here are some new rules that you should learn about food and wine pairings and get the best out of your next dinner.
Get to know your wines
When we talk about food, it’s easy to know what someone means when you’re having a heavy or a light meal. But with wines, it can be tricky, and it’s important to get to know different wines and how they feel. First is the weight – try out different wines and see how different their weight feels. Acidity is also important, with whites generally being more acidic, but reds definitely not something to be ignored either. Texture is another factor, and no, “liquid” is not a texture. Is it light or oily? Bubbly? And lastly, flavor. Nothing too specific, like notes and scents, but broader terms like grassy or mushroomy. Get a bunch of bottles and some good friends and get to tasting.
Now that you know your wines, let’s talk about pairings. A classic tip is “What grows together, goes together”. Which means that if you shop regional, you’ll get some great flavor combos. This is especially a great tip for traveling, because if you go to a restaurant and order everything local, you don’t have to worry whether something will go together – it will.
Another flavor pairing is to match similar flavors. If your dish has a lot of herbs and citrus, go for a wine that has those flavors in them. Bubbly wine is often sweet, and you can find it all over the world. For something like egg tarts, find a champagne in Hong Kong that matches it for some sweet bubbles.
Acid and weight
If you are eating something which full of fat and heavy, like a delicious fondue, you want something with a lot of acidity to cut through all the fat. Think of it like brightening a rich butter sauce with a squeeze of lemon juice. Not only is this going to taste very good because it’s giving you a break from all the richness, but it will also aid in digestion, similar to drinking a warm tea.
Pair with the strongest flavor
A plate is rarely just one element. You have a protein, sides, some sauce, and you can’t match the wine to all of them. This is when you need to identify the strongest flavor. Sometimes, that will be the protein itself, like fish or a strong meat – something gamey like wild animals should be matched with an equally strong red wine. However, if you have lighter meat like chicken or pigeon, then the sauce or some of the sides might have a stronger flavor than the protein, and you should pair your wine with that.
More importantly, if you’re only choosing for yourself, make sure that it’s a wine you like the taste of. There’s no point in choosing a grassy wine to go with your dish, if you’ve never liked grassy wine in the first place. Your first priority should be to pick a delicious wine, and then to pair it well with your meal. You technically won’t go wrong if you simply pick a red wine with meat, but give yourself permission to experiment, try new combinations and really play with your food to make it taste great.