The recurring movie scene of a well-off gentleman showing a refined taste in recommending food and drinks combination is not delightful than what we can learn from a female character who can guess the vintage with her lips only. These big screen moments always make us hungry, and thirsty for that part, but actually, learning than French Chablis is the perfect match for oysters or which red goes best in beef bourguignon is not that hard. Remember these tips when you want to impress your friends at dinner.
Two rules of matching
Not unlike when you make a sauce for a dish, the first rule of food and drink pairing is based on contrast. The drink choice should contrast the food flavor. But, you need to be careful not to overpower it, as to big of a contrast can lead to the battle of the flavors and a ruined dinner. An example of contrasting is having a spicy Chinese dish tamed with a fruity, aromatic Traminer. On the other hand, when you decide to mirror food with drinks, you are actually selecting a beverage that complements the dish flavor.
Essential drink properties
Contrasting and pairing, however, require a certain knowledge of different qualities of drinks. In that sense, foods with strong impact should be paired with a heftier drink. While light pilsner matches perfectly with salmon or oysters, braised short-ribs ask for a stronger flavor of a stout. One easy to remember rule is that delicate foods pair better with low-alcohol beverages while simpler and rustic recipe welcome more potent brews.
Acidity and carbonation
Another secret weapon in a gourmet’s arsenal, acidity is a property that contrasts with the richness of a dish. Fried clams and heftier dishes rich in fat may shroud your sense of taste, while acidity of Sauvignon Blanc from your Melbourne bottle shop helps cleansing it. Alternatively, you can use carbonation of certain sparkling wines and beer to the same effect.
Tannin and sweetness
Thicker structure and bitterness in wine comes from tannins. They are molecular elements that make wine taste dry and can be naturally found in plants, seeds, bark, wood, leaves and fruit skins.
Low-acidity red wines that are rich in tannins match greatly with red meats by neutralizing fat and proteins. On the other hand, tannins combined with spicy and hot dishes may be too much for the tongue to bear. These dishes are better off with sweeter drinks, like Rieslings or natural fruit juices.
Of course, you may find yourself in a situation when somebody who doesn’t prefer alcohol at all would ask you to recommend a matching non-alcoholic drink. While they differ in structure from wines and beers, these beverages still have many properties described above. Berry juices are rich in tannins so they can be paired with rich red meats with success. On the other hand, freshly squeezed citrus juices fulfil the role of Sauvignon Blanc in breaking fats and heavy textured meats.
In the end, there is one last fail-safe trick that you can pull when you are not sure about the pairing. Just let the geography do its part and choose an Italian wine with Italian dishes with confidence. Regional drinks have evolved through history to perfectly match the regional cuisine.