Pairing of wines

Wine pairing is almost an art. Meals are best enjoyed with wine, but you have to know how to choose which wine is the most suitable to accompany the different dishes. Each flavor requires a type of wine and getting it right is not always as easy as it seems.

Everyone knows the basic pairing formulas that are nothing more than the typical ones: “red wine pairs with meat and white with fish”. However, modern dishes offer a huge range of flavors and aromas, so this traditional way of pairing wines is not always the most appropriate. Nowadays, pairing is complex and not only because of the new flavors and preparations, but also because of the enormous offer of new wines, with different flavors that exist.

What is pairing?

Basically it is about uniting dishes and flavors with wines. In a few words, dishes with a strong flavor, such as meat or sauces, usually pair well with strong and full-bodied wines. On the other hand, light dishes such as salads, starters and fish pair well with light wines, such as white or rosé. 

However, this formula is not written in stone and red wines would not always be the most recommended for a meat dish. To a large extent, pairing is a matter of taste and choosing the wine that accompanies the food list of a menu will depend a lot on the taste of each diner, as well as on the preparation of the dishes.

Pairing with wines has increasingly become an experimental process, in which white wines can be used for meat or dry wines for dessert. However, there are some tips that can be followed to choose the wines that best pair with food.

choose the menu

To understand what pairing is in a restaurant, you have to think about all the elements that make up a menu, bearing in mind that all the dishes will be part of a global experience, since each dish will have unique flavors and aromas.

In the same way that a menu cannot serve three main dishes in a row, neither should a strong wine be served with a light dish, since doing so would result in the following wine being insipid. 

For this reason, sommeliers order the wines based on the dishes served on the menu. Usually, you start with rosé or white wines for starters and, from here, you start with a pairing of increasingly mature red wines, until the dessert that is paired with sweet wines such as Pedro Ximénez.

weight and balance

To enjoy a pairing dinner, it is necessary to find the balance between wine and food. In this sense, the weight of the meals must be known, which is defined according to the raw materials used to prepare each dish, as well as the amount of fat it contains, the intensity of the flavors and the different elements that make it up. compose, as well as their “heaviness”, that is, how difficult the dish is to digest.

The weight of dishes is somewhat complicated, but it is necessary to understand it. For example, a roast beef with gravy will be much heavier than a salad or seafood dish. 

Wines also have a weight, in this case determined by their body and the intensity of their flavour, which is defined by their alcohol content, as well as the type of grapes used to make them, the maturation time, the tannin content and up to the Denomination of Origin or the region where it was made.

In this sense, sommeliers point out that young white wines are the lightest, followed by whites and aged whites. Rosé wines are also light, in some cases even more so than white wines. In red wines, the lightest are the young or of the year, followed by the Crianza, Reserva and, finally, the Gran Reserva. Sweet wines are the heaviest and therefore are reserved for desserts.

To find the balance between the dish and the wine, the ideal is to pair wines that have a similar weight. Therefore, salads and starters pair well with young white wines, while fish and shellfish pair well with full-bodied white wines. For cheeses and white meats, we can pair a white wine from aging or even a rosé wine. Red wines are suitable for grilled meats, roasts or cured cheeses and red meat stews.

contrast and association

Today, a wine pairing dinner can be a good space for experimentation. For example, we can pair wine by contrast, choosing light wines for main courses and vice versa. 

For example, a very spicy dish could be paired with a dry white wine, which offers a sensation of freshness that can be very pleasant. Another example would be to serve strong-flavored cheeses such as blue cheese with sweet wines, which enhances the powerful flavor of the cheese.

The association would be just the opposite. Pairing a white wine with a seafood dish that complements its flavor. Wines can be associated thanks to a wide variety of factors such as color, texture, flavor or temperature. The temperature would be the association between a fresh seafood dish and a young white wine, which would be served cold.

Finally, we must not forget that wine pairing is still a matter of taste, so it will always depend on our experience. Choose a wine that you enjoy and that you like, and surely you will not fail in the pairing.

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