Chefs today, whether those in a restaurant or you at home, are experimenting with unique food and wine combinations to keep their lives interesting. The ever changing world of wine, along with an ever widening diversity of available ingredients in cooking helps make this exploration worth a try. There are rules one can live by, but I often like to refer to them as guidelines to help you formulate your own idea.
FLAVOR PAIRING – Congruent or Complement
Congruent pairings have shared compounds that combine together to intensify flavors. Complementary pairings oppose and counteract each other to create balance. Tips to keep in mind when pairing:
Acidic Foods – Foods with high acid make lower acidic wine taste flat. Match high acid food with high acid wines for best combinations.
Rich Foods – A high tannin red wine acts a palate cleanser to rich, fatty proteins. Pairing steak with a high elevation Cabernet Sauvignon works well as the fat of the meat is tamed by the tannins in the wine.
Spicy Foods –There are two roads you can travel. If you like spice, heat it up with a spicy red zinfandel. If you want to feel refreshed a cold sweet wine with low alcohol will counteract the burn of the spice.
Sweet Foods – Sweet foods often make dry wines taste bitter if the level of sweetness doesn’t match the sweetness of the dish. It is always best to match sweet foods with sweet wines.
If you were to take a one hole punch snapshot of your tongue, how many taste buds would you find? Of course everyone’s palate is different, but there are three basic types of palates to discern from.
Nonsensitive – 10-25%. If you are nonsensitive, you can handle spicy food and love the rich, bold flavors. Bitterness doesn’t bother you because you can’t taste it all.
Average Taster – 50-75%. If you are an average taster, you can taste bitterness. You are able to love most wines and by simply savoring the flavors, you will be able to pay attention to nuances.
Hypersensitive – 10-25%. If you are hypersensitive, everything tastes intense, salty, sweet, sour and bitter. When you hypersensitive, you are also a sensitive eater.
Blind Tasting – Practice blind tasting with your friends. Start with a single varietal and place it in a brown bag. By not pre-judging a wine, you are able to expand on your senses as well as to improve your vocabulary to describe wine.
Regional Comparison – Try the same variety over several regions to see how geography influences flavor. Incorporate regional cuisine with this technique.
Vintage Comparison – Find a series of vintages from a producer from a specific region and see how different years can compare. If you aren’t able to get multiple vintages from the same producer, work on finding wines from the same year, and different regions and work on those comparisons.
Quality Comparison – Put together a lineup of similar wines that vary in price to see how quality varies.
Heading into the new year of 2016, put together a plan to try new wine, and cook with new ingredients. Try to use wine as an integral part of your cooking. Drink wines to educate your palate and to create your own pairings. Imagine you are a painter, and this is your canvas to create whatever you want. Use what you know and make a plan to learn more by allowing your palate to guide you. By the time you get through, you may make it to super taster!
Kimberly Fisher is Director of Fine Wine Sales for Badger Liquor & Spirits