How to Explore with Food and Wine
Most of the best cuisine in the world happens in the finest wine-growing regions, where wine is often just as important as the food.
What we perceive as taste is actually smell. White wines have citrus, and pear flavors are only found in whites…whereas red wines almost exclusively have tannins and most whites do not. Both reds and whites have many common flavors such as earthy, spicy and, of course, floral, which is why you can try many different wines with many different foods.
Apart from the basic taste of wine, the weight and intensity, or texture, of a wine is an important factor in food and wine pairing. Keeping it simple, most experts suggest that the heavier the dish, the heavier the wine; and correspondingly, the lighter the dish, the lighter the wine. The key is to create a harmony between flavours and textures on the plate and in the glass, and match the weight of a wine, whether full, medium or light-bodied, to the weight of the dish. An example of this approach is to pair a ripe, full-bodied Shiraz with a grilled fillet of beef served with a red wine reduction.
What I like to do when I want to try different wines is order by the glass…that way you have more flexability to change as the dinner evolves. Restaurants have been expanding their by-the-glass menus (especially with the economy), thereby allowing the consumer to explore many more choices with their meals. So, in conclusion, I would start in baby steps…instead of a cab with a steak, try a Malbec, Zin, or Barolo. You can always substitute pinot with burgundy as a fall back, if you want a safe pairing.
Each wine is unique, regardless of variety and region, and each vintage has its own character which can create many different wine styles. The secret to successful food and wine matching is to get straight into tasting. Take note of the ingredients being used in a dish and hone in on a likely grape variety to suit. The wine and the food should complement each other, not battle against each other. Remember what some experts recommend: “Simple wines with complex foods…complex wines with simple foods.” And then, simply enjoy after that!