Combining Food with Wine or The Right Wine for the Right Food
Caesar - August 16, 2003
The pleasure that we get by drinking the perfect wine with the right dish, is much greater than the pleasure we would get by eating the same food and drinking the same wine separately.
Furthermore, an unhappy coupling could debase both wine and dish even if excellent on their own.
A good way to help decide which wine-food combinations may work best is to use the principles of juxtaposition and concordance accepted and used by the Italian
Association of Sommeliers (AIS) as well.
According to this guideline some food characteristics require a juxtaposition, or contrast with the wine, while others take advantage of combining a wine that aligns, or goes with the food flavors.
By taking in consideration the main taste sensations that we get from the food, we will be able to identify those dishes that generally require contrast or juxtaposition, and those which are better with a wine that aligns with, or is in concordance with them.
When planning to eat a rich, strong dish with
marked flavors which attack the palate decisively, with bitter accents and/or acidic characteristics, we don't want to highlight such flavors by drinking a wine with similar characteristics. Instead, we would want to combine the food with a soft wine, characterized by a good sugar and alcoholic content, which counters and softens the strong food flavors therefore creating a balance of flavors.
Let us now consider tactile sensations such as grease, the succulence and the fattiness of foods.
Grease creates a slippery sensation inside the mouth which is balanced perfectly by the red wine tannins and their tendency to create the opposite sensation of palate roughness.
Succulence is a sensation derived from the presence of liquids and juices in the mouth. When eating succulent foods, the alcohol content of the wine creates harmony by giving the sensation of drying the palate.
Fat content in food, on the other hand, creates a sensation of mellowness inside the mouth and on the tongue. In this case, a sapid wine with good acidity stimulates the production of saliva needed to emulsify the grease. Effervescence is another characteristic that you may want to consider in choosing a wine for the kind of food described above.
The mildness of certain food, such as pasta and shellfish, is a sensation vaguely reminiscent of sweetness but that truly has nothing to do with it. Is a pleasant sensation that may become tiring and bland if highlighted by a combination with a sweet wine. In this case we want a wine that gives our palate strong and well-defined sensations such as sapidity, acidity and possibly effervescence.
Up to now we have analyzed food with characteristics that require a juxtaposing action from the wine. Going forward, we want to take into consideration food sensations that require concordance, or alignment from the wine in order to best deliver inner flavors.
Cakes and desserts for instance, should never be combined with wines by juxtaposition. Such a match would negatively highlight the dryness, acidity and possible slight bitterness of the wine.
Foods with characteristics that manifest themselves to the senses of taste and smell rather than just to the palate, such as aromatic and/or spicy foods, are best served with a wine with a similar strong bouquet which goes with it, thus emphasizing and complementing the taste of the dish.
The persistence of the taste-smell sensation of food and wine, or the sensation
of aroma and scent left in the mouth after swallowing a mouthful of food or a sip of wine, should persist, or last in the mouth for a similar length of time. If one of the two sensations lasts longer we will experience an imbalance in harmony.
The complexity of a dish can range from very intense to extremely simple.
Certainly a simple dish with faint and light flavors would be overwhelmed by a strong-structured, full bodied wine. In this case as well a harmonious combination with wine helps bring out the delicate aromas of the food.