Enjoying a relaxing glass of wine at the end of a busy day while relaxing is often a great way to close out an evening. Those who enjoy wine often talk about wine as an experience, with the smell, texture, temperature and flavour all contributing to the overall experience.
Wine can be delicate, and its enjoyability is touted to be enhanced by adhering to certain soft guidelines depending on the wine in question. There’s a certain skill, almost a science, to selecting the right wine at the right time. Even ignoring the finer details of the wine itself, simply pairing the right wine with a meal can be quite a difficult task without experience.
Understanding how to pair wine with a meal effectively is important for special occasions and events and can come in handy for holiday meals or even simply to enhance a family dinner. In order to better tackle the idea of pairing wines with meals, we’ll focus on red wines for now in order to narrow the scope.
There are simply too many wines to choose from without narrowing down the types available, but even still, most of the tips we’ll go over can be applied to any type of wine with a bit of forethought. With that in mind, here are a few tips for pairing red wines.
1. Consider the Environment
Before breaking out the wine, consider the environment. As previously noted, different occasions call for different types of wine. Everyone has different tastes for wine, so it’s important to consider how many people are going to be partaking in a meal before you begin the pairing process.
Red wines are more full-bodied than whites, which gives them a different mouthfeel and flavour from the get-go. Lighter bodied reds are usually a safer bet for more inexperienced wine drinkers, while heavier varieties are typically better served for those with a bit of experience with red wine. Reds that lean towards fruity flavour profiles are also a safe bet for less experienced red wine drinkers, as the additional flavours help to ease people into the experience of drinking and buying red wine.
2. Look At The Meals Ingredients
Once you’ve got a good idea of the type of occasion you’re working with, it’s time to look at the meal itself. Meals which include white meat for example, such as chicken, are a bit easier to work with from the get-go, as white meat pairs well with light to medium bodied reds. Good pairings are determined by flavour profiles, and more specifically, how the flavour profile of a specific variety of wine can enhance or detract from the flavour profile of a specific dish.
Certain characteristics of wine and food pairings can work together to improve the flavour and enjoyability of the meal as a whole. Salt content, sweetness, bitterness, tannin quantity, and the way a meal is prepared all play a role in determining how well a wine pairs with a meal.
3. Consider Generalities
Pairing can is complex both because of how flavours interact, and because wine tastes can vary heavily with experience and preference in general. Thankfully, there are many tried and true pairings which you can lean on while you gain experience with pairing.
While some may scoff at the idea of looking towards classic pairings, it’s important to note that they’ve held up for years because they tend to please. Red meat often pairs well with medium to full-bodied and bold reds, and reaching for a wine which fits those characteristics is a safe bet. With a bit of experience, you’ll gain a natural understanding of how flavours match up, better enabling you to experiment and eventually dial in the perfect pairing.
4. Start Pairing
The best way to master pairing food with wine is simply to experiment. While preparing day-to-day meals, see how different wines pair with the finished meal personally. Broadening your pairing experience naturally through experimentation is a surefire way to learn how specific pairings complement each other, before eventually using your newfound understanding to pair up the perfect meal at your next gathering.
Always remember that there are resources available such as pairing charts to better guide you as you learn, and many wine stores often suggest pairings as well. Suggested pairings are simple guidelines, but they’re reliable when you’re just starting out. After some time and experimentation, you’ll be pairing the perfect wine with the right meal based on experience and flavour alone.