Jun 21, 2007

Wine Pairing (2) : different ways to a good pairing

There are different ways of matching the proper dish with the right wine. You can either pair by the weight of the wine, the cooking method used for the dish, the period of the year you are drinking the wine, the volume of the beverage or by the temperature and the texture.
Match the weight of the wine with the weight of dish : light, medium, heavy dish with light-bodied, medium-bodied, full-bodied wine. A good question from a wine-pairing beginner would be : "how do you judge the weight of a wine ?"
It is often correlated to its alcohol level, from the fermentation process : less 12% = light-bodied, over 13-14% = full-bodied.
The grape variety - knows as Cepage in French - will also give you a good hint (check for further posts about wine to find out about bodies...) .It is easy to know the Cepage of a wine from the New World, since the grape variety is always mentionned in bold capital letters on the label (etiquette in French). It is barely the case for a wine from the Old World, where the name of the Appellation (the place where the wine has been produced) is only used most of the time.
In that case, your only chance is to ask to the vendor, or even better to taste it !
Here is the tip : if thin as water, light-bodied, if got the weight of whole milk = full-bodied.
The cooking method is also a good approach in pairing : lightly poached dish vs grilled dish vs braised dish call for an increasingly full-bodied wine.
The period of the year : chilled, light-bodied wine in summer, full-bodied wine in autum or winter.
The volume of a wine adresses the flavor volume of the food and of the wine. It is the overall intensity. "If you were putting its flavor through a stereo speaker, how loud would it be ?"
Delicate greens lightly dressed with lemon, rib steak with blue cheese, delicate poached fish dish, fish rubbed in spices, grilled and served with a jalapeno salso... Don't you think that those dishes have a different level of loudness ?
Just keep in mind those principles when it comes to pairing :
  • "Quiet" dishes match better with equally nuanced wines.
  • Acidic or sweet dishes should pair with wines addressing these qualities. e.g, a mixed green salad with a tart vinaigrette goes with an acidic Sauvignon Blanc.
  • Spicy food and salty should pair with "quiet" wines otherwise saturation will occur. A white wine with little residual sugar will pair perfectly. Remember, high tannin and alcohol amplify the heat of the dish.

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