General Thoughts on Food and Wine Pairings
We believe that wine appreciation is a uniquely personal affair as tastes and preferences are as varied as people. There are no good or bad wines, just different types of wines that are made from a variety of grapes with diverse viticultural practices using numerous vinification techniques. So our rule of thumb is to buy and drink what you like and not pay attention to rankings or celebrity testimonials. Our only caution is to make sure that the wine you are drinking complements and enhances the food you are eating. These are some rules of thumb that we have come up with to assist in trying to match the main characteristic of the food to the wine.
Rich foods like red meat and wild game need a medium to full-bodied red wine to balance the power of the meal. Medium to full-bodied wines are often associated with higher levels of tannin. The scientific definition of tannin is the polymeric forms of the phenol derivatives of anthocyanins and also of benzoic acid derivatives. In English, tannin is the part of the taste in the wine that is felt on the teeth, gums and tongue and makes the mouth feel dry. Tannin can come from many sources but the most common are the grape skins themselves and the oak barrels used for aging the wine. To experience the taste of tannin, simply brew a cup of very strong black tea.
High levels of tannin react with the high levels of protein in these types of food dishes to soften it and ease digestion. Tannin also enables the wine to be aged for extended periods of time. This is one of the main reasons why wines with lower levels of tannin (light-bodied red and white) need to be consumed earlier in their life. As red wines mature, tannin comes out of the wine forming sediment at the bottom of the bottle. Decanting (opening the bottle to let the wine breathe) ahead of serving is a good idea for tannic wines.
Lighter foods like white meat (chicken, pork, etc) or fish need a delicate red or white wine to complement the meal. Light-bodied red and white wines are often associated with higher levels of acidity. Most of the acid will be tartaric and some will be malic. Acids give crispness, brightness and especially important, the thirst-quenching qualities to wines. Acidity in wine comes from the grapes themselves and like tannin is a desirable and essential property in wines.
High levels of acidity are a perfect match for white meat and fish as the acids react with the oils in the foods to balance the affect on the palate. While one expects red wines to have substantial differences in body (light to full), there are also large variations in white wines as well. Therefore, care must be taken when pairing white wines with food.
As one can see there are many permutations in wines, each with different levels of acidity and tannin. This multitude of diversity insures endless possible combinations of food and wine pairings.