Wine is an alcohol made from grapes, fermented without the addition of sugars, acids, enzymes, water, or other nutrients. It is one of the only alcohols that is considered to have several health benefits. As the famous saying goes, “a glass of red wine is good for the heart”, we can say that a balanced consumption of it can really have positive effects on our health.
As beneficial as it may sound, the tasting of wine and pairing it with sides that complement the wine is a whole new ballgame altogether. To develop a taste of wine, one must know the right food items that go with the right kind of wine. The two basic colours in which wines are found are white and red. But these are not the only two options. There are several segregations to these as well.
To start with the very popular and healthy variety, that is, the red wine. It has several varieties like rose, the very famous one, that has a light pink colour. It primarily has a very fruity and citrusy flavour and tastes best when paired with melons, ginger, olives or tomatoes. Another popular category is the light reds that have Pinot Noir, Gamay and Blaufrankisch that tastes the tastes divine with mushrooms, chickpeas and several root vegetables like shallots, leeks, carrots, etc. The medium reds, like Merlot, Syrah and Grenache, go well with tomatoes, onions, eggplant and green leafy vegetables. The big reds like California Carbs, Super Tuscans and Malbecs that have a very strong and distinct taste are best accompanied by squash, garlic, bell peppers and black beans.
Talking about white wines, the well-known sparkling wine comes to mind first. Champagne, Prosecco and Cava are all varieties of white sparkling wine. A delicacy in itself, it is best complimented with truffle, a very rare and expensive fungi body, considered a plant only and other vegetables like avocado and asparagus. Other varieties of whites include aromatic white wines like Pinot Grigio, Txakolina, Gruner Veltliner that are mostly served with fresh herbs, chillies and dark leafy greens. Whereas lush whites like Chardonnay is served with sweet corn, shallots and beans.
The modern "art” of food pairings is a relatively recent phenomenon, giving rise to an industry of books and articles with guidelines for pairings of particular foods and wine. In the restaurant industry, sommeliers are often present to make food pairing recommendations for the guest. They are specifically for tasting and recommending the best suitable sides to go with the finest wines available. The main concept behind pairings is that certain elements such as texture and flavour in both food and wine interact with each other, and the right combination of these elements will make the entire dining experience more enjoyable. However, taste and enjoyment are very subjective and what may be a perfect pairing for one taster could be not-so-great to another. The first strategy tries to bring wine together with dishes that complement each other such as an earthy, Burgundian Pinot noir with an earthy, mushroom dish.
The second strategy works under the concept of opposites attract and brings together food and wine that have contrasting traits such as a crisp, acidic Sauvignon blanc and a fish with a creamy lemon sauce. The acidity of the wine serves as a contrast that can cut through the creaminess of the sauce and give refreshing sensation for the palate as opposed to what a complementary pairing, such as a creamy, buttery Chardonnay, would bring. It follows the same idea that the "salty/sweet" pairing does in cooking.
While it is often said that "taste is subjective", there are quantifiable taste characteristics (like bitter, sweet, salty or sour) that can be perceived and measured as low, moderate or high—such as measuring the sweetness of honey or the saltiness of oysters. Flavours, such as vanilla, strawberry and butterscotch are more personal and can't be measurable. Flavours are either taken to be present or not. The experience of these flavours is linked to our sense of smell, while tastes come from the sensory glands of the taste buds. Though individual sensitivity to the different taste senses can vary, wine experts will often recommend pairings based on these more objective measurements rather than the more subjective concept of "flavours".
Drinking wine is not just a mere “drinking with your buddies” scene, it is a lifestyle in itself. No matter what the sides are, the wine must always be the main focus of the tasting. The sides are only to enhance the taste of the wine and give an enriching experience to the Sommelier.