Increasing access to millions of recipes and wines makes our life more complex and much more fun. On this short guide you can find the answers for your questions about the mystery behind food & wine pairing: is it a science or an art?
In a restaurant we can ask a sommelier for advice, but what do we do when we are alone at home? Although there are many recommendations scattered throughout the Internet, some very valuable and other definitely unreliable, we cannot always find that wine announcing ideal for our dish. What to do then? The pairing seems a quasi-magical knowledge, often unattainable, but I assure you that with a few simple rules you can choose the wine for any recipe and enjoy the harmony of flavors.
1. Seek harmony
The first and most basic rule says that we always seek a synergy, a duet that works in our palate. Therefore, before our crucial choice, we have to consider the aromas / flavors and weight / structure of food and wine.It is much better when the aromas of wine and food complement each other. For example, if we feel an herb like rosemary in Terrunyo Syrah, we recommend using the same herb in the recipe. A very simple advice says: if you have in front of you a dish and wine, and if you feel in your nose that the two complement aromatically, it means that the marriage works.
2. Consider the flavors and aromas of the wine
Wines can have aromas of various olfactory families like citrus notes, tropical fruits, berries, flowers, spices, etc. The aromas are also found in the mouth of the wine, and again we aim to create a synergy with those ingredients. Our advice is to make the aromatic profile of the wine, taste it well, according to the stages (sight, nose and mouth) and try to serve it with a similar plate. For example, Marques de Casa Concha Merlot with a rich Bolognese sauce (both flavors of oregano and the juicy red fruit of the wine will harmonize very well with the tomatoes). As you know, one of the most important step of wine tasting is the mouth. Here we seek to discover the wine’s identity and the characteristics of a particular style, but above all, we look forward to find the perfect balance. On our tongue there are the taste buds, such that, depending on their location, sensory receptors perceive five tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami. All these flavors can be found in wine and in our foods, causing many interactions. I assure you this is not magic, but pure biology and chemistry.
3. Beware of the sweets
Our taste buds get used very fast to a sweet taste. When we eat a dessert, the mouth gets desensitized and wine tastes less sweet. Thus wine tends to hide its fruit notes and reduces the structure, but increases the sensation of tannins and acidity. Simply the wine loses its beauty and our pairing is very difficult. So it is always recommended that the wine must be sweeter than your recipe. For example for a cheesecake choose our Late Harvest from Maule.
4. Choose the right wine for spicy food
Because of the same reaction, a sweet wine is always welcome with spicy foods, such as Mexican, Indian or Chinese. Spicy foods increase the warming effect of alcohol in wine. However, if you like spicy food and are not afraid to feel the heat in the mouth, you can choose a powerful and voluptuous red wine, but with a rich acidity. For example, for a Chinese dish based on beef and seasoned very spicy, you can choose Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon.
5. Think of the acidity of your food
Acidity also reduces the acid sensation of wine. This helps to soften the tannins and to brin to our palate the fruit and sweetness of wine. Besides the acidity of the wine functions as a kind of sword that cuts the greasy or oily feeling of some food. For example, a crisp sparkling as Subercaseaux goes well with fried fish.
6. Take into account the tannins
While some tannins are pleasant, many people prefer masking theme and feel the wine softer and more friendly on the palate. Tannins are hidden by salt, but salt also makes the wine feel less refreshing and more alcoholic. Therefore, it will become rich, sweet and fruity. If the wine seems too tannic, just add pinch of salt to your dish. Now, if your recipe is rather salty, you need to choose a wine with a rich and pronounced acidity. Try a fish ceviche with Trio Sauvignon Blanc.
7. Avoid extra bitter food
Bitter foods make wines feel more tannic. So when we eat an artichoke or bitter chocolate, it increases the perception of bitter tannins. In addition bitterness decreases the feeling of fruit in the wine. Sommeliers are always very careful when dealing with bitter ingredients. Usually they work with recipes that have only a touch of bitterness. That is, they try not to expose wine too much.
8. Learn to recognize the “fifth taste”
Umami is known as the fifth taste. If you have not heard of it, it is associated with Asian cuisine, often with fermented foods, cooked mushrooms, parmesan cheese and even tomatoes. The risk with the umami taste is that it makes tannins feel harder. Besides its pushes up the acidity and alcohol warming effect, dimming the fruit, body and sugar. Many umami dishes are often heavily salted to neutralize this effect. With the umami taste, a rich wine with the same flavor goes very well . For example, parmesan cheese with sparkling Casillero Diablo Brut Reserva.
9. Don’t forget about the wine structure
Wines can be light, medium or firm bodied. It depends on how much alcohol and tannins the wine has. The dish must be equivalent to the wine in weight and structure. For example, a ragout of beef has a lot of protein and fat and therefore it should be served with a wine of strong body, such as Terrunyo Cabernet Sauvignon. Ragout of chicken breast, however, is a light-bodied dish (chicken has less protein and less fat than red meat) and it’s recommended a wine of medium body, like Trio Chardonnay
10. Try geographical pairings
Nature is very wise and makes some wines from a certain region naturally well harmonized with ingredients and recipes from the same area. Try, for example, Chilean oysters with Marques de Casa Concha Sauvignon Blanc from the coastal Leyda Valley or Limari’s goat cheese with Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay from the same valley.
These rules are quite easy and everyone can learn the basic science of pairing. But not everybody has predispositions as an excellent sense of smell or taste that characterizes many sommeliers. In addition sommeliers dedicate their lives to know the widest variety of wines and dishes of different techniques, seasonings and ingredients. So, in many cases, people who know the basic rules will choose a rich and proper wine for a dish, while the professional will recommend an option that surprises us and really rise the matching to another level of harmony. That, precisely, is the frontier where pairing science ends and art begins.