Some notes from a talk / taster I went to on food and wine pairing. It was led by Tom Forrest – and a very interesting and knowledgeable chap he is.
Food / Wine pairing – things to consider
The flavours of the food and wine should amplify each other. Similar flavours usually pair well. Opposites can also work – Sweet Sauternes or Gewurztraminer with foie gras. Dry rose with a fresh fruit dessert.
Strongly flavoured foods need strongly flavoured wines to accompany them. A light dish like salmon mousse would not go with a strong red such as Shiraz. Try it instead with a chilled unoaked Chardonnay or Muscadet. The acidity will ‘lift’ the fish flavours and give the mousse a citrus ‘zing’.
Weight is the ‘texture’ of the wine. Weight differs from Intensity, in that a light wine such as Riesling can have an intense flavour. Weight is usually determined by alcohol content – the more alcohol the heavier the wine. It can also be given by aging the wine in oak barrels. This is particularlly the case with Chardonnay – the oak aging makes it feel creamy and heavy in the mouth.
This is the bitter tasting substance found in red wines. Tannin clashes with acidity and with fish. It goes very well with red meat because the protein softens the tannin in the wine, and the tannin cuts through the chewiness of the meat. A heavy red such as Cabernet or Shiraz goes beautifully with rare steak. A lighter, less tannic red, such as Pinot Noir, pairs better with more delicate meat.
Salty foods do not usually go well with wine, especially tannic ones. Cheese is one of the most salty foods we eat with wine. Sweet wines are the best option – Port and Stilton, Rieslings with less strong cheeses, Sauvignon Blanc with goats cheese. The high fat content of cheese tends to coat the mouth, so heavy, high alcohol wines are a good match.
The acidity in Sauvigon Blanc (Sancerre, Loire valley wines) and the alcohol in Port lift heavy creamy cheeses like Stilton.
The dry feeling on the gums from red wine comes from tannin.
Chardonnay that has been in oak gets a buttery taste / texture – the longer it is in the more flavour it has. Less time in oak can make a crisper, cleaner wine. New world Chardonnays tend to go for oaky, whereas French ones tend to be much lighter. The sweet taste, but without being sugary, is a ripe taste. Older barrels have less toasty notes. Cheaper, younger Chardonnays might be aged in stainless steel with oak wood chips thrown in. This can make the wine a bit oily (but less expensive).
Madeira is fortified by adding grape alcohol, to kill the yeast before it eats all the sugar. This is how come we can get strong, sweet wines. This is also done to Port. After fortification Madeira is baked slowly to get the caramel, coffee flavours. Hence it does not change with age.
Classico in Italian wine usually means from the original region, before commercial expansion (i.e. from the best land).
Vines produce as much grape as you want (within reason), but only so much flavor. So less wine from a plant often means better wine – most Appellation d’Origine Controlle have limits on the weight of grapes allowed to be produced per hectare. Stronger alcohol in a wine comes from more sugar in the grapes, because of better land, which often means better wine.
The edge of red wine gets darker with age.
Tanin tastes good with protein – hence the pairing of high tanin red wines with meat.
Try pairing Champagne with Parmesan cheese.
As Tom says: Experiment !