Breaking the rules of food and wine pairing

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When it comes to pairings, rules are to be frayed, stretched and at times, broken.

Seems everyone's an expert, critic or pairing pro in this well-connected world, where wine tips are but a click away.  Do we really need another guru telling us what wine to pair with what food, as though the opinions pouring fourth like a free flow Champagne brunch are more valid than our own.  Hmmm…maybe not, but then again, perhaps a few choice tidbits gleaned from a career spent in the subjective pursuit of perfect pairs might just be the go.  Read on if you wish and see possible quaffs whether you dine on veggie, meat, fowl or fish, this has ideal wines to fit the dish.

The commonly held white wine with fish, veggies and chicken; red wine wine with meat rule is a dated, but decent guide to follow when not sure.  However, along with the times, there have been changes in diet, eating habits, cuisines, and even the wines we drink.  A Claret today is not the same wine as when Cyrus Redding wrote of them in days of Dickens. In fact, some argue, and rather well, that today's big Bordelais have more in common with colossal California than complex Claret of old, and that's just one example.  Champagne, for another, was much different, being less bubbly and lot more cloying than the razor strap sharpened efforts of today.  So then, if wine styles of progressed, why not pairing rules?  A rather largish Claret today might be more a match for a Yank dinner of BBQ Spare Ribs than for a classic English Roast and Champagne, well, expand your palate's parameters with pairings that go there and everywhere while making a stop in the all important HERE.

What kind are you planning to pilfer from your mates's stash? Prosecco, Cava, Cremant, or the bling bringing bubbles of true Champagne? Consider the style, will it be a light, highly effervescent wine or something with less foo-foo and more substance? For wines of the former order, try light foods like gourmet crisps or even Asian Prawn puffs, each served with a tobiko spiked homemade aioli for dipping.  If the wine is more on the bold front, with powerful bubbles and huge autolosis notes, why not pair with a fresh slice of fresh, yeasty bread with a highly whipped dab of white truffle butter? That's nice.  For an aged, vintage sparkler, the wine can handle richer foods like roast game hen and even foie gras. Just think of foods that compliment, or at least, don't detract from the wine.  No need to go overboard with Oysters topped with coriander foam and Beluga caviar!  
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Like one of those never ending comment threads, the theme of knowing what type of wine has heaps to do with what you pair.  For snappy Kiwi Savvy, figure fresh, lightly steamed Asparagus wrapped in Bacon and pan-fried till the latter is crisp, like the wine.  Steamed mussels are always okay, but why not twist up a light crepe of Chevre and oven-roasted capsicum?  If moving on to the world of Chardonnays, consider from whence your wine comes, then go with food to blend with the wines's characteristics. For big, buttery examples from the New World, fresh corn fritters with apple salsa can be good, while if the wine hails from Burgundy, maybe St. Jacques in a sauce from the same bottle…that's grand.  Maybe you want to sip an aromatic white, like a Riesling or Viognier.  Well, weight comes into play here. The Riesling sings with racy acidity, and with a hint of sweetness, can brace itself beautifully with a spicy curry from Thailand or India.  The velvety voluptuousness of Viognier makes a great set with Peking Duck and Hoisin sauce.  

The beat goes on, and again, keeping in mind what you want to drink, only then on food you think.  Beaujolais, not the nasty nouveau stuff, but real, proper Cru Beaujolais. This is a tantalizing wine, with fresh floral notes and great minerality, it lends itself well the a nice selection of charcuterie, and does well with dishes like dolma and babaganoush  with feta cheese thanks to its crispness.  Pinots love anything earthy. especially mushroom based risottos and harvest fresh fall root veggies like beets. Cabs love meat, so think of Mum's Sunday roast and hope for the most. However, for a unique and fun treat, try a choice piece of tuna, crusted in black pepper, flash grilled, and paired with a boisterous Barossa Shiraz. Make a sauce with a glass of wine and you'll find that your mouth says yes to something so wonderfully fine.  

Finally, if you like white and want meat, go ahead, but try to pick up a weighty white that can stand up to big flavors.  Going red but want fish, well, try to keep your choice light, like a Beaujolais. As for cheese, stick with white please, unless you've got some Roquefort and Port.  And just so you lovers of Rose don't say "hey, you forgot us", pair your favourite, whether from Provence or Spain, with something fresh, floral and light, then everything will be just right.  A great mate once told me, "flavour favours the brave". I think he was right, so try to be brave with your pairings tonight!


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