Wine Pairing Basics
Acidity is a crucial component to food as well as wine. For food, the brightness helps to lighten dishes and provide much needed balance. For wine, the acid brings freshness to the glass and helps to cut through fatty foods and also helps to match the acidity of the meal. When you have a raw dish like shellfish or sashimi, go with something that is on the lighter and brighter side for wine. When you have a dish that is onctious, like duck or salmon, pick a wine that can cut through the fat of the food, but matches the weight of the food so that it does not overpower the meal!
While tannins in food may not be desirable, you can have them in enjoyable ways, like the charred grill marks of a steak or the bitterness we like in black coffee or teas. Just like how we may add cream to our coffee to mellow out the bitterness, tannins in wine LOVE fat. That is why heavy tannic reds go so well with fatty red meat and butter. Always remember to try to match the weight of the food with your wine so that you can achieve balance, but don't be afraid to experiment!
Saltiness is essential for flavoring your food. Depending on the dish, it may call for more salt than others, like something deep fried or cured. To match saltiness of food, you can try wines that are a little on the sweeter side, not dessert wines, but something off-dry to create the irresistible cycle of salty-sweet. Salt also loves fat in foods, so for dishes like this, try pairing a bright and light wine to help cut through the fat!
Spices are wonderful flavor enhancers when cooking. Depending on what kind of spices you are using, the types of wines you want to pair it with will change too. If it's a peppery, smoky, herbal spice, you should look to match it in your wines, something rustic. If the spiciness is more on the chili temperature side, think sweeter wines. Sweeter wines will help to cool the hot spiciness in your mouth and will help to balance everything out. Any acidic wines will exacerbate the heat and will make the food taste even spicier!