Categorised | Featured, Food & Beverage

7 simple rules for food & wine matching success

by Jules Clancy from stonesoup | minimalist home cooking.

When I was first getting into wine, I remember being a little scared of the whole food and wine matching thing. It just seemed so complicated. How could you predict which wine would be best? So I decided to start a life long experiment. After all, I was pretty sure no one had ever died from a poor food and wine match – how bad could it be?

After many a good (and not so good) bottle, and a few years working as a winemaker in some of the most beautiful wine regions in the world, I’ve developed my own philosophy on how to maximise the pleasure in your food and wine partnerships.

I’ve summarised them in the form of some basic ‘rules’. Please enjoy and feel free to add in any of your own tips for making the marriage between wine and food a rich and rewarding one.

the 7 simple rules for food and wine matching success

i. There are no rules
OK -  I know this sounds a little Monty Python-esque but the most important thing with putting food and wine together is to use your imagination. There are no rules that work for every situation and every person so relax and don’t waste your time worrying about breaking them.

As long as you and your guests are having fun then your food and wine matching has been a success, regardless of what the traditional rules would have us believe.

ii. Match wine with people first
Just as some people always have and always will hate anchovies, some people just don’t enjoy certain styles of wine, regardless of the quality of the vino. Sometimes this may be based on a bad experience with a poor quality example, and if the person in question did actually try a decent Sauvignon Blanc they may find that they love it. But forcing people to try new things may do more harm than good.

If you suspect that your guest may be open to giving it another chance, by all means make the offer but please, please do not insist they try your perfect match. No matter how well those oysters and that minerally fresh Riesling go together in your mouth, to someone who just loves to drink big reds it’s unlikely to taste any good.

Respect that everyone’s palate is different. Think about your guests and their wine preferences first and think about the food matching second.

iii. The food and wine must both taste great on their own
Sure duck and Pinot Noir have been known to make a little magic on the taste buds when the two are united, but it’s not always the case. A watery, insipid cheap Pinot is still going to taste sad and bland even if it is teamed with the most succulent duck confit.

The same goes for the food, if it’s not going to taste any good on its own, it is very unlikely that your wine match, no matter how delicious, is going to make the food taste better.

iv. Weight is important
Lighter, more delicately flavored food generally works best with lighter style wines. Heavy tannic reds tend to be best with more robust meaty dishes but of course there will always be times when a light wine could team marvelously with a heavy rich dish (see rule number v.)

v. Wine and food can contrast one another
Contrast is something that we personally love to play with. Using a light acidic wine like a Sauvignon Blanc to cut through the oiliness of fried fish and chips is always a winner. Unless of course you’re with someone who hates acidic wine (see rule ii).

vi. Wine and food can compliment each other
Sometimes finding flavor similarities can result in a harmonious food and wine matching experience. The earthiness of mushrooms in a mushroom risotto can work a treat with a funky earthy Pinot Noir. A fresh, minty Cabernet Sauvignon to compliment classic roast lamb with mint sauce can also be a flavor explosion.

vii. Trust your own instincts.
Like most things in life, if it feels like it’s a bit dodgy and it isn’t going to work then you’re probably on the right track.

It isn’t the end of the world if the food and wine are more at the divorce end of the relationship spectrum as long as you follow rule number three, you’ll be able to enjoy each on their own. A judicious sip of palate cleansing water in between mouthfuls can make all the difference.

[read more from jules at her blog stonesoup | minimalist home cooking HERE]

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