Understanding how to create a balanced meal can ensure the ultimate dining experience for your customers and pairing wine with dishes can enhance the overall dining atmosphere. When done properly, wine pairings can heighten flavours, textures and qualities in the food. It’s important that neither the food nor wine overwhelms the other – but more so that the two dance on the palate.
While there are over 20 different tastes found in food, when it comes to food and wine pairing you only need to focus on six of the tastes – saltiness, acidity, sweetness, bitterness, fat and spice. Wine generally lacks fatness, saltiness and spiciness but contains acidity, bitterness and sweetness with each varietal containing varying degrees.
The classic white wine and seafood
White wines and sparkling have more acidity and are perfect for pairing with lighter dishes. In particular, riesling is a lighter-intensity wine that pairs well with seafood as its acidity scrapes the leftover fish flavour from the palette. A kingfish ceviche is the perfect accompaniment to a riesling to bring out the flavours in both the food and wine. Other varietals such as pinot gris, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and semillon can all be paired with dishes made up of chicken and fish, to pastas and quiches, even mild and creamy cheeses.
A light sparkling and cheese
Sparkling blends, such as Champagne and prosecco, create a contrasting pairing with soft cheeses. They have few shared compounds and the opposing tastes and flavours create a balance. Specifically, as Champagne is very acidic and soft, a fried camembert with cranberry sauce will cut through the acidity to create a seamless balance on the palate.
Bold red wine and meat
Red wines, on the other hand, have more bitterness and are best balanced with fatty foods, particularly bold flavoured meats. Cabernet sauvignon, for example, is a bitter wine packed with tannins, and therefore works well with meaty dishes such as steak or lamb cutlets. This is much the same for shiraz, another full bodied red with high tannins. Consider pairing with barbecue, especially saucy spare ribs. When it comes to lighter reds like pinot noir and sangiovese, consider pairing with lighter meats such as pork and duck, or mushrooms if you’re looking for a hearty, meat-free menu alternative.