Wine and food pairing is something that people often don’t take into account, and when they do they usually tend to just make common sense pairings based on the flavours of the wine alone, rather than considering the different layers of both the meal itself and the wine. In this guide we aim to help you discover the different aspects that can be taken into account when pairing wine with food, hopefully resulting in you discovering the joys of well thought out matches between recipes and wines leaving you wondering how you ever got along before!
The Body Scale
When first deciding on the perfect wine to accompany your meal, forget the flavour for a while and concentrate on the body as it is equally as important but often gets overlooked when matching.
Imagine both the body of the wine and the body of the meal on a scale that ranges from rich, full bodied red wine and the fattiest, meatiest meals you can imagine like lamb or steak, right down to the lightest, delicate white wine and the leanest, low protein meal such as poultry and salad based meals. If those are the two extremes of the scale, everything else should fall between and should help give you a narrowed down range of wines to accompany your meal.
What Is The Body?
If you are still feeling a little confused by all this talk of ‘body’ and still don’t fully understand what we mean by ‘full bodied red’, then fear not. The body (sometimes referred to as the ‘structure’) basically refers to how the wine feels in your mouth. A good way to explain it is to consider the different types of milk. If you have ever tasted skimmed milk, semi-skimmed milk and whole milk you will be aware that they all have a different feel in your mouth. Skim milk is quite silky and light, whole milk has that almost creamy thick feel without actually being thick in texture, and semi-skimmed falls nicely between the two. So if we liken light-bodied white wines to the feel of skimmed milk, and full bodied reds to the feel of whole milk, everything else falls somewhere in between, with semi skimmed being the middle ground.
Most red wines tend to fall between semi skimmed and whole milk on the body scale, whereas you will rarely find a full bodied white that falls further than the semi-skimmed mark.
So, to conclude, you want to match a full bodied meaty meal such as ribs or a char-grilled steak bursting with big flavours with an equally big bodied wine, preferably a Bordeaux or Cabernet Sauvignon, something that packs a real punch to be felt over the other big characteristics of that meal.
However, if the main make up of the meal is salad, whether it is covered in meaty steak or not, you don’t want to risk overpowering it, a medium bodied Shiraz or Rioja will keep up with the meaty side of things but won’t overpower the salad. If chicken or seafood is involved in the mix then a light to medium-bodied white wine is in order, such as a Chardonnay or even lighter still an Albarino.
Watch out for part two of the beginner’s guide to food and wine pairing, when we will look at how the acid and sugar content of the wine impact on the flavour and affect the food pairings that can be made.