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8 Principles for Pairing Wine with Food

When I do wine tastings the part that many people find most interesting is how wine and food interact. While there are no rules here are 8 principles for pairing wine with food.

Principle No.1. The most important principle is to match the intensity of flavours. A lightly flavoured dish, like grilled chicken with vegetables, requires a wine with a similar intensity of flavour, such as a Godello or a Grüner Veltliner.

Principle No. 2. Choose a wine to match the flavour in the sauce. A dish with a sauce that has a fruit component, pork chops with apple sauce, then choose a wine that has a similar style profile, such as an Albariño, Chablis or Pinot Grigio, all of which often have a element of apple aroma and flavour together with a fresh acidity.

Principle No. 3. Umami, a term that regular readers of this column will be familiar, basically means tasty or savoury. Dishes with a high level of umami, such as jamon serrano, a juicy steak, shellfish, each in their own way are challenging to pair with wine. Choose wines with a tasty character to accompany dishes with high in umami. A Fino or Amontillado Sherry with Jamon, a full bodied Californian Cabernet with a steak, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with seafood.

Principle No. 4. Sweet dishes are tricky to pair with wine because the level of sweetness in the food tends to be much higher than that of a sweet wine, which has the effect of overwhelming the flavours of the wine. It is best to pair dishes that are not too sweet with a good sweet wine, together the flavours of the wine and dish will have more impact. A Moscato D’Asti from the Piedmont in Northern Italy is a wonderful, slightly sparkling, dessert wine.

Principle No. 5. Contrasting styles of flavours can make a delicious combination. Rich creamy dishes that work well with a full bodied Chardonnay with its characteristic oaky and butter flavours. However, a good sparkling wine, Champagne/Cremant or Cava, will also work well because bubbles and acidity of the wine contrast brilliantly with the texture and flavour of the sauce.

There are some other exciting contrasting combinations, for example blue cheese with Sauternes or any other premium quality sweet wine.

Principle No. 6. Red Wine with red meat and white wine with fish is not a principle to follow. There are many combination that work well, a Tuna Steak with Pinot Noir or a Riesling with Pork Sausages, where the richness and acidity of the wine combines well with the flavours of the sausage.

Principle No. 7. Fatty, full flavoured meats with full flavoured wines. If you are having a dish with strong flavours, like a barbecued steak, choose a wine that is in a similar style, such as a full bodied Australian Shiraz both of which have the structure and tannins necessary to enhance the flavours of the dish. Alternatively, roast lamb with a Rioja Crianza, works really well. On the other hand If you choose a more delicate wine, Pinot Noir, its flavours will be overwhelmed by the food.

Finally, principle no. 8. Keep things as simple as possible. It is usually the most simple pairings that give most pleasure. Paella with a chilled non oaked white wine, delicious.

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I am a Northern Irishman based in Valencia. My career in wine began more than three decades ago, in London. I am the founder of TheWinePlace.es, an online store, where wine enthusiasts can enjoy a selection of international wines and Verde Marte, a company dedicated to exporting Spanish wines. Also, Thewineplace.courses, an "approved program provider" of the courses of the prestigious WSET. I share my passion for wines through my media work writing weekly columns for the Spanish newspaper El Mundo and 5 Barricas, an online wine magazine.

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