The Grapevine

Food & Wine Pairings: How to Pair

August 7th, 2015

We’re going to turn address this over the course of a couple of Friday posts to help folks perhaps feel more comfortable pairing on their own. [level-members]

Let’s break this down and talk about the wine first. Rather than trying to master the whole idea at once, let’s concentrate on the wine first. Since pairing is, at it’s heart, all about taste, let’s start with what you are tasting in the wine you’re pouring.

Aroma is the first place to start. What does the wine smell like as you bring the glass to your face, even before you taste it? Is it familiar? Is it distinctive? Is it readily identifiable as a particular varietal? (Granted, this last question isn’t going to make sense for folks just starting out.)

Taste is the next sense to engage and the questions are similar to those about smell. Is the taste familiar or new? Is it predominantly sweet? Astringent? Does the taste change from beginning to end, and does it have a long or short finish?

Texture is often overlooked, but wines differ pretty greatly in texture and “mouth feel.” Pay attention to the wine’s softness or bite, among other things.

Finally try to compare the wine to other wines you know, whether they are of the same varietal or are completely different. You’ll be surprised at the parallels you wind up drawing.

Few of these questions matter in and of themselves – you either enjoy a wine or you don’t; there’s no need to overthink it – but the questions are worth asking because, over time, you can build framework for what you like, why you like it, and whether a wine is a good food companion.

As an exercise, consider each bottle of wine you open, whether it’s for cocktails or to accompany a meal. Ask yourself the questions above and then go one step further to ask, “What kind of food would work well with this?”