The Only Rule Is, There Are No Rules!
The world of wine is like a grand library with shelves stocked with thousands of books. You can stop at any one spot and find your perfect match amongst the many varieties on offer. But if you’re tempted to check out before you’ve cracked open the spine, we reckon now would be a good time to study up and learn how to benefit from all that knowledge.
We know what you're thinking: "I've been pairing wines for years — I don't need these tips. If the wine critics at The New York Times and Time magazine can pair a wine with a food, then I don't need their help." And to that we say: "You're missing out! You ought to at least know what you're looking for. When it comes to learning about wine-pairing, the best place to start is with established sommeliers. In this article, we'll provide you with an introduction to their mindset as well as some tried-and-tested tips from those who know what they're talking about.
The pairing process has evolved from a hit-or-miss endeavour to an art form. In the 18th century, German winemakers would try to match out-of-season fruits with their wines, but they didn't have the luxury of refrigeration. Most fruits weren't in season during the colder months, so they needed a way to overcome that problem. They would store plums in a barrel containing Riesling wine and see what happened. If it worked out, then great — if not, then too bad.
Today, we have the option of storing fruit and produce in refrigeration and we know what we're doing. We can pair wine with food in any style or manner, not just according to our palate, but also according to the specie of grape. For example, if you've made a pairing that combines a light-bodied wine with something creamy like potatoes, then you'll want to choose a wine that's light in body too. It's all about balancing food with wine.
When it comes to understanding the idea behind pairing wine with food, it's important to realise that there are no rules. The only rule is that there are no rules. It's about striking the right balance. The idea of matching "light wines" with heavy foods, for example, is a widespread myth.
Winemakers will use food colouring to experiment with how light or heavy a wine might match their food, but what they've found is that this isn’t necessarily applicable to an important consideration: there are no rules. There’s no perfect food-wine combination. A couple of examples of personal pairings can help you get started.
Let’s say you’re hosting a dinner party. You’ve laid out the table, and you've prepared everything ahead of time. You can relax knowing that your guests will enjoy the food and wine equally. The same goes for when you're shopping for wine with your dinner in mind, or preparing it yourself at home; if you chose the right foods (medium-weight protein dishes), then it’ll be easy to pick up some wine, or even open what's already in your fridge. You don't have to follow any rules or have a taste for expensive wines. Instead, pick some light-bodied Italian reds by the glass. This cuts back on the expense and gives you a chance to try out new wines before investing in a bottle.
In Spain, where people have been pairing wines with food for centuries, sommeliers come from a long line of great chefs, and they don’t follow any rules either. They use their knowledge of flavour profiles and experiment with different ingredients, pairings and cooking methods to develop their own method. If you're going to cook up a storm at home or host a dinner party for your friends, think about what you’re drinking as well as what you’re eating.
The idea of pairing does imply that the wine and food should compliment each other, but when you're tasting wine with what you're eating, it's hard to tell what you're actually drinking. You can imagine how difficult it would be to taste a wine if your mouth was full. That's precisely why we spend most of our time learning about the differences between wines and how they pair with food: to make sure we know enough not to go getting our mouths full. But if you do choose a bottle of wine that's too light or too bold or doesn't compliment your food, then don't give up on the wine — just return to the store for something different.
The pairing process has changed dramatically. It used to be about finding matches between food and wine that you knew. That's how wine was sold in the old days, but people spent just as much time drinking wine as they did drinking water. Today, it's more than just picking out a bottle of wine to match with your dinner at home, or finding out what food will pair best with what you're drinking at the bar; it's about learning about differences between wines and getting an understanding of how food flavours are expressed through wine. The act of pairing gives you the chance to discover something new (the combination of food and wine) rather than focusing exclusively on the part that’s already familiar (specifically, your palate).
In the end, the idea of matching food with wine is all about you. It’s about discovering new tastes and smells that you can get excited about. It’s a new experience every time that you pair wine with food, just like it's a new experience to drink wine or beer for the first time. That's why we encourage you to keep an open mind when it comes to pairing wine with food.
So get out there, and start experimenting. After all, wine tasting and the wine industry as a whole is all about fun.
Visit us at Vino Hue and grab a great pairing, "Wine Wipes" for those unwanted oral stains after drinking red wine. Or visit our other store "Amplify Wine" to pair your wine with high quality wine accessories at affordable prices.