When pairing wine and food, the conventional rule was red wine with red meat and white wine with white meat and seafood. That simple philosophy has become more sophisticated, and the golden rule today is – there are no rules. With the diverse range of wine available, experimentation rather than convention is the order of the day.
Multi-cultural cuisines, coupled with grape variety and region of origin, the world over, has opened a “Pandora’s box” of mixes and matches. It is not necessary to be a wine “buff” to experiment, just a basic knowledge of the three wine tastes – sweet, sour and bitter, and an appreciation of the aroma – fruit, spice and alcohol aroma.
Then the matching of food to wine comes down to one of two choices, like for like, or opposites. Like for like creates a combination of simultaneous flavors between food and drink. The obvious example is the pairing of a flame grilled, grain fed fillet steak, with a full bodied Cabernet Sauvignon. Opposites involve treating the taste buds to an intense contrast of taste and texture. This could be a chilled bottle of Semillon Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio with hot and spicy pork spare ribs.
Achieving either match is simply a matter of taking note of the ingredients used in the dish, and selecting a grape variety to complement, either by similarity or contrast. And remember – no rules! No need to worry about the color of the wine. It is quite acceptable to enjoy a Merlot (either cooled or room temperature) with fish or shell food in a creamy sauce. In fact, with spicy dishes, particularly Mexican, it is the sauce rather than the core ingredient that should be the pairing determining factor.
The only really important thing in pairing decisions is eat and drink what you enjoy. Experiment with a little wine tasting. There are over 100 wine grape varieties and blends. Work out the ones that are pleasing to your taste buds. Then, based on the ingredients of the food you are about to eat, marry them up to YOUR indulgence, not what you are told is the convention.
For example, take a curry – most restaurants will offer some choice of intensity; mild, medium, hot, very hot. Make your decision, and then order your wine to complement that, and do what you want it to do. There is a whole range of choices, from the extreme of a very hot curry coupled with a full-bodied Shiraz with a spicy floral aroma – intense! To the other end of the spectrum, a mild curry with a fruity young Riesling, to refresh the mouth as you eat.
Just remember – there is no right or wrong. As long as you enjoy the taste sensation that is what it is all about.