A perfect pair between food and wine means that the two ingredients combined create an enhanced and balanced flavour that’s better than the ingredients on their own. When two ingredients create an imbalance, the taste lingers on your palate and may even make you feel nauseous. The intense flavours can clash on your palate if you don’t select the pairings carefully.
Foods that are difficult to match with wine include:
- Blue Cheese
- Soy Sauce
- Brussel Sprouts
When pairing a dry red wine with chocolate, you lose the initial fruit flavours of blackberry or cherry in the wine due to the overpowering flavour of the chocolate. You may love dry red wine and chocolate but not together. Tasting chocolate adds sensations to your palate including textured chocolate tannin, fattiness and sweetness. A harsh flavour of sour wine can be left on your palate when the wine scrapes the fattiness and sweetness of the chocolate away. While it doesn’t always work, there are some pairings of wine and chocolate that complement each other rather than create an imbalance.
Cocoa beans are naturally fruity, meaning chocolate can pair well with a fruity red wine. The fruitiness is accentuated by a lower pH (acidity), which is then accentuated by fermentation.
Here are a few successful pairings that create the right balance of flavours, enhancing the taste of the mixed ingredients.
Sweet Riesling or dessert wines pair well with milk chocolate.
Dark chocolate can be paired with Merlot or Petit Syrah, and dark semisweet chocolate with Merlot or Pinot Noir.
Another potential pairing partner is dark bittersweet chocolate with Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel.
The overarching rule of pairing wine with food is trying different combinations and discovering for yourself which pairings you like best. While you can take our advice on board, everyone has a different palate with different preferences, so it’s difficult to give blanket advice. Take the basic tips and try a mixture of the suggestions to find something that captures your attention for all of the right reasons.
If you’ve ever tried to pair asparagus and wine, you’ve probably had an unpleasant experience. Asparagus is a vegetable that clashes with a lot of wines. It can make wines taste bitter, metallic and harsh as it contains compounds like asparagusic acid.
When choosing wine to pair with asparagus, steer clear of tannic reds or oaky whites and go for something citrusy, herbal and unoaked, such as a Sancerre or Pouilly Fumé, Alsace Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, even unoaked Chardonnay.
Another thing to consider when pairing asparagus with wine is the sauce. The sauce can be the most important element of a dish when it comes to matching wines as it dominates the flavour of the dish and can pair components together that otherwise wouldn’t work so well together. The sauce can sometimes act as the flavour bridge between a dish and wine. Hollandaise is the classic sauce to pair with asparagus and it makes the vegetable more wine friendly.
It’s best to grill or fry your asparagus when pairing it with wine. Grilling, in particular char grilling, appears to take some of the edge off the bitterness of the asparagus.
Blue Vein cheeses also called Blue cheese is a generic term used to describe cheese produced with cow’s milk, sheep’s milk, or goat’s milk and ripened with cultures of the mould Penicillium. All blue cheeses are made by mixing a mould into milk, along with some salt. The final product is characterised by green, grey, blue or black veins or spots of mould throughout the body.
Try pairing Port with blue cheese, its sweetness is the perfect match for crumbly blue cheese. Riesling also works as a nice combination with blue cheese. Toss a few almonds and dried apricots on the plate alongside the cheese, or if you’re after something more, check out our post on how to make an impressive cheese platter.
Soy sauce is not eaten as a stand-alone ingredient, so you can pair the wine with the overall flavours of the dish rather than the sauce itself. However, you need to choose carefully as the salt in soy sauce can increase the perception of tannins in wine. This makes the bitter notes or off flavours in the wine, particularly red wine, highlighted, while the fruitiness is hidden.
A Chardonnay (unoaked or lightly oaked) with good fruitiness and medium- to medium-full body supports the depth and saltiness of dishes with soy sauce, though the toastiness will be accentuated. You could also try an off-dry white wine like Riesling which provides some sweetness to balance the saltiness of the soy sauce.
Brut rose and blanc de noirs sparkling wines and other wines with low tannin levels have the fruit and acidity to complement dishes that contain soy sauce.
It’s all about finding the right balance for you. Try the combinations we’ve suggested, tweak to your tastes and find out what the perfect pairing is for you.
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