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Matching Food & Wine

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There are usually general rules about this topic, but sometimes it can have also some exceptions due to personal taste, traditions or customs of different cultures.

The taste of each dish is specially characterized by four elements:

  1. Flavor (or intensity of flavor)
  2. Aroma (perceived by the nostrils as well as by retro olfaction when chewing and swallowing a mouthful).
  3. Fatness (produces sensations of lubricity and softness in the mouth)
  4. Sweetness (is immediately perceived by the tip of the tongue).

These features, according to some, have a correspondence to some wine quality, such as:

  1. Alcohol
  2. Smell
  3. Astringency
  4. Softness

According to this correspondence, a very tasty food blend well with a wine with a higher alcoholic content; the smell of wine has to match with the aroma of the dish; the fatness will be balanced by a wine with a good acidity and tannins, while the sweetness will need a soft and sweet wine.

A generic sequence to be followed in serving wines at the table is as follows:

Moreover, to pair foods and wines properly is necessary to consider some basic data.

First of all, we should say that palate perceives four important tastes: first the sweet which ends in few seconds, then the acid and the salty which last shortly too and finally the bitter, slower to appear and disappear.

But in the tastes mixture we will find out that the bitter is enhanced by the salty and the sweet is able to soften the other three tastes. So what is important in matching wine & food is to achieve the right balance so the taste of a dish does not cover that of a wine and vice versa. The main rule is to begin with light tastes and move slowly to the strongest ones.

It is inappropriate to start a meal with a starter rich of flavor and then eating a soft and delicate first course, whereas it is better to see a progression between food and wine at the same time.

There are some basic attitude rules but there are also some exceptions such as white wines usually are served at first and only after that there are rosé wines and finally red wines.

Wines with low alcohol content are served before the ones with higher alcohol content.

Dry wines are served before the light and sweet wines.

Wines to drink cold or cool are served before the ones at room temperature.

Typical examples of food & wines pairing

STARTERS

Starters do not need too much firm wines because of the food consistency and the need to serve wines with the meal in accordance with methods of increasing body and alcohol content. We therefore recommend the use of dry white wines or possibly, if the dish is more complex, rosé wines or new red wines.

PASTA AND RICE

Pasta and Rice are neutral foods, i.e. their tastes features and consequently the wines that have to served with depend mainly on their seasoning.

  1. Seasoning fish: white wines, more or less full-bodied according to the texture of the dish.
  2. Seasoning meat: Red wines, as long as not too full - bodied. If pasta is served with fragrant seasoning, also wine should have appropriate aromatic characteristics.

MEAT

Meat can be cooked in many ways and consequently having different tastes features. The general rule is matching red meat with red wines while white meat, especially if served cold, should be with full - bodied white wines and firmly structured.

The use of wine in the preparation of the dish requires then that the same wine is also used for the pairing.

FISH

Fish generally matches with white wines but sometimes there are some exceptions such as stewed fat fish which is recommended with a light red wine.

CHEESE

Cheese matching is very complex due to the diversity of tastes features which requires many possible solutions such as:

Soft and not matured cheese are better with weak-bodied white or red light wines;
Hard and matured cheese are better, instead, with firm wines.

DESSERT

It is not recommended pairing dry sparkling wines with sweets, usually they should be paired with sweets and delicate wines. Elaborate cakes or "panettone" are paired better with sweet wines which bring out their sweetness, actually more elaborate is the cake more alcoholic has to be the wine.

For further information please download our free Guide about fine wines

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