On our cycling tours, we do a lot of wine tasting and food matching. Whilst we don’t profess to be experts – we’re more about travel and having a fun time – we have built up some knowledge of what can work in terms of food and wine pairing, so here are our 7 Tips for Food and Wine Tasting.
Wine Tasting Tip 1: “Ignore all These Tips!”
Above all else, food and wine are to be enjoyed. If you like a wine, and like a dish and they work for you, who cares what anyone else says!!
Wine Tasting Tip 2: “Think About It”
Rather than just ordering your usual wine, it can pay to just think very briefly about the dish or meal as a whole, and what the dominant characteristics are. Mild or flavoured? Fatty or lean? Rich with acids? From there you can better select a matching drop
Wine Tasting Tip 3: “Balance”
Match mild food with mild wines.
Match big flavoured foods with big flavoured wines
Match rich foods with rich wines
Wine Tasting Tip 4: “Suck on a Tea Bag!”
Tanins taste similar to the flavour you would get if you sucked on a tea bag (don’t recommend that but you get the idea). It’s an astringent flavour that helps strip fatty acids from your palate. Protein found in meats, eggs, cheese…etc help neutralise tanins making a tannic red wine taste softer. Make sense? So if you want a red wine, and are having a relatively rich fatty dish (steak), go for a wine with good tanins such as Cab Sav. Or you’re after a white wine, and having a fatty dish (fried chicken), you probably want to contrast it with a crisp acidic wine such as a Sav Blanc. For a straight rich, high fat dish like chicken in cream, you would do better to match the flavours with a rich wine, such as Chardonnay.
Confused. Go to Tip 1.
Wine Tasting Tip 5: “Same Same But Different”
Try and match acids with acids. If you’re eating a dish with strong acids like shrimp with lemon, pasta with tomato sauce, pair it with an acidic wine such as Sav Blanc.
But rich cream sauces will usually clash with acidic wines. Thinking of squeezing lemon into milk, not a great taste! Stick with creamy wines like a Chardy.
Wine Tasting Tip 6: “Red Meat”
Fairly obvious but a little know tip is that the bigger tannic reds (Cab Sav, Merlots) work well with fast cooked/grilled/roasted meats, whereas softer reds (Shiraz, Pinot Noir) work well with slow cooked and braised meats (Osso Bucco).
Wine Tasting Tip 7: “Spicy Food”
We love Asian foods – who doesn’t – but it can be a challenge matching a wine with spicy dishes. Our tip here is to try and match the flavours. Spicy dishes are often quite sweet, so match that with sweeter wines like Pinot Gris/Grigio, Petit Manseng, Rieslings, Gewurztraminer, but more savoury curries work well with drier wines like Viognier for white meats or Marzemino for red meats.
Wine Tasting – “That’s All Too Confusing”
In our view, foods go best with the wines they grew up with. If you’re eating Italian, try an Italian varietal. This can really simplify your decision, and encourage you to try new wines, which is what wine tasting is all about!