If statistics on the subject existed, it would show that among those who drink wine, more people worry about food and wine pairing than perhaps any other issue pertaining to this lovely beverage. The idea seems so contrary to what the intended purpose of wine was, and hopefully, still remains: to anoint social occasions and meals and to add anew dimension of enjoyment to the entire setting. Instead what we find are perplexed hosts scurrying between the wine shelves of a retail store, if not clicking away feverishly online to find a site, blog, almanac, or any source of reliable information that could be used by them to ascertain just what wine to serve with their food line-up for the evening.
Maybe it’s not them, maybe it’s guests today, their satisfaction quotient seems to have risen rotten by the sheer number of parties they get invited to and therefore, any wine that they can afford ontheir own time and budget, they sneer at.
But let’s not digress, back to food and wine, while it may not be all that people make it out for, it still does follow a few basic rules, rules that are nothing more than pure common sense and can be understood and remembered easily if logically approached rather than rote from some vinous Bible.
- Ensure Quality: Never pair with food or wine that by themselves are not qualitative enough. Chances are, that even if one of the elements is not deserving enough, you will ruin the enjoyment of the other as well. Complement the chef’s skill with a good bottle, out of respect, if not for any other reason.
- Lights before the heavyweights: The palate is nothing but a collective if tissues and it has the tendency to get tired when exercised too much. The less responsive it gets through the course of a meal, the more enriched the flavours needed in order to be detected. From this one can see why it would be sensible to start with lighter more nuanced wines and then graduate to the richer ones. The food also generally follows a similar pattern: starting with light salads and soups, moving on to the main course, before finishing with cheese and/or dessert.
- Traditional pairings: Nostalgia isn’t the only reason why Italians prefer a local red with their pizza, no matter where they are in the world. The high acidity uniquely found in Italian reds make them a pleasure besides pizzas and pastas. The local sauces oftendeveloped depending on what was available to cook in the region and the wines too followed a similar plan of coordinated matching. Point being that some pairings work not just because some marketing fellow said so but because they evolved alongside the food over time.
- Threshold it: Everyone has a personal tolerance for spices, as also for chillies and as long as the fooddoesn’t go overboard on that scale for an individual, s/he can think of pairing wine with the food. A palate sensitive to such tastes will never manage to enjoy the pairing, finding the heat too intimidating to override in order to enjoy the wine. For parties, especially if you are playing host, keep such as low as possible in order to ensure that none of your guests find themselvesoverwhelmed in such a manner.
- Generally the dry wines come before as sweetness has a way of making the palate numb to dry wines which are generally more nuanced. If you must break the logical order, ensure you have some sort of a break between the two: from something as simple as a glass of water to something more lavish and elaborate like a Gougères or something similar, like a savoury macaroon.
- The Crescendo Principle: If you are serving multiple wines over a meal, build it up. Everyone in the land of Bollywood likes a little shot of spice and drama to their everyday lives, something mysterious and exciting and yet nothing that requires toil, effort, or creases the trousers. For such occasions, it is ideal to serve wines in a progression of sorts, one that takes the drinkers from the basic to the more complex. This way, everyone enjoys the unravelling with each round of wine served, and for those who don’t make it till the end, having to leave, or pass out, it means more good wines for us to enjoy with the main course!
- Burn the Rule Book: In case you have some tome that lays down the principles of pairing for every dish possible, get rid of it. Food and wine pairing is not science, more of an art, an interpretation really, and everyone is entitled to their own. If you have to follow one, start with yourself. In fact, if you wish to over-ride the very rules mentioned here, it wouldn’t be disturbing to anyone, provided you have your reasons for doing so and can back them up.
Food and wine pairing isn’t at all difficult, but the social importance that people attach to it is truly spectacular. The general fear goes that if you don’t couple them up well, you’ll end up eating many a meal alone for the rest of your life. As I said above,there are bigger issues to worry about. This is the time to unwind and havefun. If a wine doesn’t work, try another. With all the variety around us, chances are that we won’t run out of options just yet. And if you find a match that works, share it right here on this platform. Till then, happy pairing!