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How to Create the Perfect Synergy of Food and Wine

To experience the magic created by the perfect “food wine” synergy, treat wine as a condiment rather than a beverage. Taste food and wine simultaneously, not separately. 

Cheverny Wine and Mussles
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Here’s a secret you won’t find in many food and wine magazines: There are many people who quite successfully pair fish with red wine. If you read the experts, of course, you’ll know that pairing fish with anything but a Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc or a Pinot Grigio is widely considered déclassé. Here’s the thing, though. Meaty, big-flavored fish like salmon and halibut go really well with Pinot Noir.

Keep in mind that food and wine pairings are essentially a matter of individual taste. There are no rules; there are only suggestions. All individuals have their own unique tastes, and those tastes evolve over time. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your food and wine choices.

Experimentation doesn’t mean making choices randomly, however. Here are some tips that will help you balance flavors creatively and achieve the perfect synergy between food and wine.

1. Match the characteristics of the food with those of the wine.

Wine can be looked upon as the ultimate condiment in this regard. The tannin , sugars and acids of the wine interact with your food in specific ways that create unique flavors, different from those in either the food or wine alone.

Your taste buds and your nose drive the flavor nuances in the foods you eat. The tongue is really only capable of differentiating four flavors: sweet, sour, salty and bitter.

Your olfactory buds, on the other hand, have a much wider range and can discriminate among up to 200 separate scents.

Food and wine flavors that wrestle to dominate the palate do not make good food pairings. Food and wine go best together when they share a complementary spectrum here.

If you appreciate the salty flavor of barbecued pork, for example, a sweet wine like a Riesling will make the dish taste even saltier.

Lunch and Rose
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2. Strongly flavored foods need a wine that can stand up to them.

For most people, heartier foods taste better with a fuller bodied wine. Clarets, for example, have tannin  earthy flavors that need a food that can push back. The visceral, intense flavor of grilled beef won’t get knocked down by claret.

Your food, of course, will have a full bouquet of flavors. Pair the wine with the dominant flavor of the dish. A dish with a fruity, glacé-type sauce will pair really well with a wine that has strong overtones of fruit.

3. Balance acidity levels.

Wine and vinegar are chemically related, after all, which means that many wines are not at their best in the presence of vinegary foods. They will tend to taste spoiled.

For the same reason, it can also be difficult to maintain flavor synergy between certain highly acidic foods, like tomato sauces, and wines with a low acid content.

High acid wines with a clean, bright flavor often make the best pairings here. These wines are frequently white.

Food and Wine
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4. Sequence your wine flavors.

If you are serving more than one variety of wine at your meal, keep in mind that the subtler flavors of the lighter wines will be overpowered by the bolder tastes of the more full-bodied wines.

Since white wines are usually more delicate than reds, this means you will be serving white wines and their culinary partners earlier in the meal. Most experts also recommend serving dry wines before sweet ones.

“Dry” refers to a particular wine with relatively little sugar. If you serve it after a sweet wine, the sugar from the previous wine will still linger in the mouth, interfering with the true flavor of the drier wine.

Knowledge and individual taste is the sure way to experience the pleasure of pairing the right food with the right wine. Live life on the edge, don’t be afraid to experiment.


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