There are six primary tastes to consider when pairing food and wine (acid, salt, spice, fat, bitter, and sweet). The basic idea in wine parings is to create harmonious matches; a match that enhances both the food and the wine. This concept is just as much paring food with the wine as it is paring wine with food. Of the six tastes mentioned acid, bitter, and spicy tend to clash with each other. So, when considering parings containing those flavors it is wise to lean towards sweet, salty, and fatty flavors in order to balance out the paring.
It is also important to understand that similar flavors can enhance each other. For example, a bitter flavor in a wine paired with a bitter flavor in a dish can create a supper bitter experience. There are many examples of “bad parings”, or rather, a paring that enhances aspects of the food or wine that are undesired. For anyone curious enough to try a “bad paring” try sweet and sour chicken with Syrah. I would personally describe the experience as palate destroying, so consider yourself warned. For those of you much saner than myself, here are a few quick tips to keep in mind when striving to create harmonious parings:
- Wine should have more acidity than the food
- Intensity levels should be similar (delicately flavored food = delicately flavored wine)
- The addition of sweet, salt, or fat can “fix” most imbalances in a paring
- Try matching older wines with aged foods and younger wines with fresh foods
Most importantly, you are never wrong to drink what you like and eat what you like with it, so have fun with it. Wine is fun and there are no rules when it comes to trying things and having preferences. So, keep that in mind as you start to explore the vast world of food and wine parings.