In my opinion, people get a bit too hung-up on food and wine matching.
We all have that friend who drinks Sauvignon Blanc with EVERYTHING and is perfectly happy and to be honest, the old chestnut of ‘white wine with fish, red wine with meat’ is probably still the best way to make most of us happy.
BUT – having said that, when you do find a good food/wine match it can be just the best thing ever. A symphony, a poem, a mouth-orgasm – whatever you want to call it, it’s fab. In order to get this, you need to consider a few things first.
Match weight to weight.
No, not the actual grams and kilograms. The weight of a wine refers to how full and rounded it feels in your mouth, coating every taste bud and tasting rich and warming as you swallow it.
Match these wines to equally rich and warming wines. Light-bodied, refreshing, zippy wines should be matched to light, fresh foods such as salads/fish etc.
Think about flavours.
Wines tend to taste of lots of different fruits, veggies, foods and sometimes other, less pleasant stuff as well! Think if those foods are a combination you would put together in real life. A rich wine tasting of blackberries, dark plums and chocolate, may not be the best match for Dover Sole.
Consider the chemistry.
This is the real fun bit of food and wine matching and is something that is great to try at home with friends. I do this exercise all the time with my WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) wine course students and it’s always good to see their amazement.
There are certain chemical compounds within both food and wine which can react against each other when tasted together.
In food, these are the 4 primary tastes of sweet, salt, acidity, umami (the Japanese word for intensely-savoury. Think Marmite, anchovies, nori). When these are combined with acidity, tannins and sweetness in wines, the results can be amazing or disastrous.
Try these fun experiments:
Taste a crisp, fresh, young unwooded Sauvignon Blanc and feel the tingly acidity racing round your mouth. Now suck a piece of lemon and immediately afterwards, taste the Sauvignon Blanc again. See a difference??!!!
Now try the same Sauvignon again, then put a piece of chocolate in your mouth and whilst it’s still there, try the wine once more. Wish I could see your faces when you do!
Moving onto reds, find yourself a dark, tannic Cabernet or Shiraz and feel those drying tannins making your mouth go all ‘dogs bum’ and screwed up. Lick your finger and dip it in some salt and whilst that’s in your mouth, try the wine again. Where did the tannins go??
This last one is a little harder, but find a light-bodied red such as Kleine Zalze Gamay or Robertson Winery Pinot Noir. Sip it, then eat some nori or some Marmite and try the wine again – how’s that for a combo?!
So there you have it. It's easy, if you know how.