Wine Pairing for Beginners – How to Choose Wines for Food

wine pairingHaving grown up in the biggest wine region in South Africa, wine has always held a very special place in my heart. It never ceases to amaze me how that one type of fruit is capable of being so artfully transformed into so many varieties and taste sensations. And the only thing that improves a good wine, other than age of course, is a great meal to complement your selection. Wine pairing is about creating the perfect taste sensation by allowing the food to bring out the best in the wine and vice versa.

If you know a little about wine, you’ll know there are all sorts of “rules and regulations” about what wine to drink with what food, how to serve the wine, what glasses to use, how to pour it, and most of us don’t have the time to dedicate to becoming a sommelier. If you do have the time, and want to learn more about what wines to drink and how to serve them then sign up for this wine course and learn to become a wine connoisseur. This course includes lectures on the various white wines of the world, sparkling wines, how to taste wine, red wines of the world and also includes lectures on food and wine pairing. Learn the secrets wine pros know and how to read the wine list like a master.

The truth is, most of us would just love to enjoy our food and wine. And luckily for us, there are some simple things we can do to choose the perfect wine for our meal. First and foremost, it’s important to realize that wine appreciation is about the enjoyment. You should choose wines that you love to drink with the foods that you love to prepare and eat.

Tasting Wines

You will only know what you love to drink if you taste a variety of different wines. If you are a wine lover, then take every opportunity you get to go to wine tastings to taste the various cultivars and varieties available. Make a mental note about the wines you love. If you want to really remember, then get yourself a notebook and take notes about the wines you taste. By visiting wineries or joining a wine tasting group, you will soon know which wines you love and which wines do not suit your palate. The great thing is, that there is no right or wrong in what wines you enjoy and there are so many different types of wine available that you are sure to find wines you love and wines you don’t enjoy.

It’s also important to remember that the same cultivar can taste different from one wine producer to the next depending on how they ferment and produce the wine. So make notes about the cultivars you enjoy as well as your favorite producers or wine makers.

Once you have a list of cultivars you enjoy, then you can begin to experiment with wine pairing. Wine pairing is really about choosing foods that complement the wine in some way or choosing foods that balance the wine and vice versa.

If you are new to wines and wine tasting then the Wine 101:Fun & Informative Intro to Wonderful World of Wine course is a great place to start building up your knowledge about wine. This course will introduce you to wine tasting and a few of the different wines available. It includes wine buying tips and a wine and food pairing chart to help you to get started on which wines to serve.

Weighting Your Wine

Once you have a list of wines you enjoy, it’s time to do some serious drinking. Well, no not really but it’s time to do some serious tasting. You need to begin to understand the different “weights” assigned to wines.

Wines are often classified according to their “body”. Light bodied wines tend to be subtle, refreshing and well … “light”. They have soft flavors and subtle aromas and tend to have lower acidity. Medium bodied wines have stronger flavor and aroma profiles. Heavy bodied wines tend to be very strong in both flavor and aroma. White wines generally fall into the light or medium bodied category whereas red wines fall medium/heavy category. There are however a few exceptions – Chardonnay for example is sometimes classified as a heavy bodied white – depending on the way the chardonnay was aged and produced and a Beaujolais is often classified as a light wine even though it is a red wine.

wine pairingThe reason you want to classify your wine into the light, medium and full bodied categories is to allow you to pair the wines with the right types of food. This pairing is often logical. You want to pair lighter wines with lighter dishes and heavier wines with heavier dishes. Classifying food into light and heavy is common sense too. If you want to know if the food is light or heavy, just think about how you feel after eating it. Steaks are heavy, salads are light. So you want to pair a light white wine with a salad or fish for example, whereas you want to pair a richer, full bodied wine with heavier foods like steaks or a rich dessert.

The most important thing to realize about wine pairing is that you won’t want the food to overpower the wine and you don’t want the wine to overpower the food, so choose light wines for subtle food and heavier wines for heavier, more robust foods.

Matching Flavors

Once you’ve mastered the idea of pairing light foods with light wines and heavier foods with heavier wines, it’s time to refine your wine pairing abilities. Matching flavors in food and wine is about finding food and wine characteristics that complement one another. Wines are often classified by their “nose”. What wine experts are referring to are the various aromas and smells that you pick up when you taste the wine. It’s important to realize that we all have different abilities and perceptions. What you smell in a wine is not necessarily what others perceive. Once again, there is no right or wrong.

To really experience the “nose” of a wine you need to add oxygen to the wine while you are tasting it. You will see wine tasters do this when they are tasting a new variety. What you need to do is take a small sip of wine and then slowly inhale small amounts of oxygen over the wine in your mouth and you will find that you will be able to taste the elements that wine experts talk about. This is harder than it sounds and a little practice will have you swirling wine and oxygen in your mouth in no time at all.

wine pairingWhen it comes to matching flavors, you are essentially trying to match the flavors of the wines with the flavors of your food. A light salad with a lemon or citrus dressing for example often goes well with wines that have a fruity nose or citrus elements like oranges. Merlot is often described as having heavy chocolate or caramel overtones. Merlot is my all-time favorite and yes – you can really taste the chocolate in the wine! So Merlot goes really well with rich, dark chocolaty desserts.

A great way to match food with the flavors in the wine is to use the wine in the preparation of your sauce. If you know you will be serving fish for example, then adding a small amount of the wine you intend to serve to your white wine sauce will truly take your wine pairing to the next level.

Acidity, Sweetness and Balance

Another factor to use and keep in mind when pairing food with wine, is the level of acidity and sweetness present in the wine. Wines with high levels of acidity normally help to balance fatty dishes. A very sweet wine should be paired with food that will balance out the sweetness of the wine. Pairing wine with food is really about balancing the qualities of your wine with your food. A very sweet dessert for example can often bring out the acidity or sourness of the wine.

Once again it comes down to personal preference and what you want to highlight in your wine and your food. The best way to balance the two is through trial and error. Try the dish with a few different cultivars to see how the wine complements the food.

Experiment, Experiment, Experiment

The bottom line is that you need to experiment to find your perfect match. You can use guides and pairing advice but at the end of the day, your best pairing is the one you enjoy the most. The one that makes you say, “Wow. What a great wine. What a great meal.”

If you want to learn to pair foods with the perfect wines then sign up to Become a Wine & Wine Pairing Expert. This course includes comprehensive lectures on the different types of wines, it includes lessons on the correct way to serve wine and the course includes comprehensive information on how to pair wines with various cheeses and other foods.