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Food & Wine Pairing Tips

Food & Wine Pairing:

as recommended by Karen Bonarrigo & Merrill Bonarrigo

Food and wine pairing can be one of the most fun and challenging hobbies in life.  Every meal sets the stage for a new experience.  Tastes, flavors, textures, and aromas are all elements that effect the combinations of food and wine.   

Have you ever been to a restaurant and experienced a fabulous meal with a wonderful wine and then gone back to that same restaurant ordered the same bottle of wine with a different dish expecting the previous WOW only to be disappointed?  Who hasn’t?  The wine most likely did not change.  The variable was the food. 

Some pairings are spectacular and others are not.  The challenge is to experience as many WOWS as possible.  These are a few tips in selecting wine and food. 

Wine and Food Pairing Tips  

  1. High acid foods such as tomatoes, citrus, and vinegar are best suited to high-acid wines, such as Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Grigio, and Chenin Blanc in the white wines or Pinot Noir or Shiraz in the red wines.
  2.  Sweetness masks bitterness and saltiness.  So if you accidentally add too much salt to a sauce or if you are serving a salty ham or seafood dish, serve a sweeter wine.
  3. Rich fatty foods such as cheese, oil based sauces, fatty meats, and pate’ pair best with crisp more acidic wines that will cut through the oily texture to cleanse the palate. 
  4. Hot and spicy foods are best paired with cool, sweet, low alcohol wines.   The sweeter wines actually mask the heat while allowing you to taste the spice.   Higher alcohol wines accentuate heat in the mouth.
  5. Desserts are best paired with wines of the same or greater sweetness.  If the food is sweeter than the wine, then the food will make the wine taste drier or more tart than it tastes individually.
  6. Dishes prepared with the wine also accompanying the meal create a natural flavor complement.
  7. Food should never overwhelm the wine, and wine should never overwhelm the food.  Balance is the goal.
  8. Wines with crisp acidity, dry or slightly sweet, light or medium body, low to moderate alcohol, smooth tannins, and neutral flavor are more likely to combine well with foods.
  9. Once you have achieved the thickness you desire in your sauce, you may add more wine to enrich the flavor of the sauce which better pairs the like flavors.
  10. Never use bad over-the-hill wines in cooking.  If it tastes too bad to drink, put it in a vinegar barrel and make your own wine vinegar.  If you use bad wine in a sauce reduction, you are essentially concentrating the bad flavors you do not enjoy and then pouring those flavors over your food.

Food and wine are personal preferences.  There are no absolute rights and wrongs, except that every meal should be a celebration to be shared and enjoyed.  And every celebration should include wine. 

Merrill and Karen Bonarrigo, Wine and Food Pairing experts at Messina Hof Wine Cellars, Inc.

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