Earlier this year at the Cape Wine Auction, we were lucky enough to win the bid for a special food and wine pairing experience prepared by celebrated South African chef, Luke Dale-Roberts of The Test Kitchen. And what an experience it was! I am inspired all over again by the beauty of well-matched food and wine. At this level of dining of course, there are many intricacies. The cuisine has subtle layers of flavour, innuendos and complexities that makes finding the perfect bottle of wine a challenge – but crucial! It all adds up to a magnificent culinary experience.
If you are in the wine and hospitality industry, food and wine matching is at the order of the day and while many of us are familiar with the basics of choosing a winning combination for the dinner, I thought to share the three fundamental things that stood out during our dinner and made such a massive difference to the way we enjoyed our meal and wine.
Of course we do not always dine in such grand style, but these tips are so elementary that they will guide you through everyday eating and drinking – no matter how simple your meal or how small your selection of wine. If you are going to the trouble of cooking something decent and opening a bottle of wine with it, just keeping these three things in mind can ensure you a treat every time.
- Matching flavour and weight
Pair mild foods with mild wines and big, flavourful foods with big, flavourful wines. Similarly you generally want to match the richness of the food and the richness of the wine. The intricate flavours of a slow cooked cassoulét with fatty meat and beans will overpower a light and refreshing white wine. The same way one should rather not serve a complex red with a light salad – the delicate flavours of the meal will not be able to stand up to the wine.
- Balancing act
If you’re eating something relatively rich and fatty such as lamb, think about drinking a red wine with a good tannin structure. If you really want to have a white wine with a rich meal, try something with a good acidity to counteract the fullness. It is about matching flavours yes, but also about balancing them.
- Solving the issue of acidity
For dishes with a strong acidic content, especially those popular but difficult to pair tomato-based ones, select a wine that also has a higher level of acidity. Remember that acidity can sometimes be hidden. Goat’s cheese for example, has a very high natural acidity. No surprise then that it lends itself exceptionally to a pairing with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc.
Keep this in mind for your Friday night habit, whether it is going out for sushi or throwing some lamb chops on the braai.