A few tips for a perfect food and wine pairing

7 May 2020

Looking for the perfect wine for your next dinner? The one that will enhance your dining experience, while offering its own character and adding to the flavours of your meal? Here are a few tips to help you guide your choices from the wide range of products we have on hand… 

Consider the evolution of the meal as a whole for a perfect wine pairing

The first step when thinking about food and wine pairings is to consider the entire meal, from the starter to the dessert. The number of courses and the nature of each dish will have an impact on each of the wines you choose. There must be an evolution in the flavours of the food and wine, but also in their structure!

For example, a coquille Saint-Jacques starter that precedes a salmon en croûte will not match the same wine as the same starter followed by a game dish or red meat. One will not want to go for a wine that is too aromatic when the second course is a relatively light one (fish, white or pink sauces, minimal spices), whereas with a game or meat course, one can dare to go for a slightly more sustained wine knowing that the next dish – and therefore the next wine – will be a more tannic one.

You must also consider that you should never regret the previous wine. Instead, always try to increase the quality of your products as you go along. You will find a thread that will help guide your choices.

Consider the structure of the food when choosing the wine

The second step is to consider the structure of your dish. Is it fatty? Is it light? Creamy or dry? Tart or sweet? Is it red meat or a vegetarian dish? What are the side dishes?

By taking this variable into account, it will be easier for you to find a similar structure in the wine that will accompany your dish. For the daring, it is also possible to balance a structure by inverting it. For example, for a dish with a fatter texture such as a risotto, adding a fat wine such as a California Chardonnay, which has a rounder and almost woody character in some cases, could make the dish heavier by combining two fatty elements. At this point, opting for a lighter wine, like a Chardonnay from Bourgogne or New Zealand, where the climate is very cool, would bring a more appropriate balance.

As for red wines, the tannic structure can add an extra challenge. How can I make sure that the wine I choose on the shelf or in the wine cabinet will not take up all the room on my palate when I pair it with my dish? There’s no such thing as a sure-fire trick; you have to know a little bit about your grape varieties. Pinot Noir and Gamay rarely have a significant tannic structure, whereas Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, etc. are more often associated with tannic wines, whether they are single varietal or blended. Grape varieties such as Merlot and Cabernet Franc will be strongly influenced by the climate in which they are planted.  Another variable to consider in your pairing!

Considering the aromas will help you choose the right food and wine pairing

This advice shouldn’t come as a surprise. Similar or complementary aromas will always help your wine pairing. For example, for dishes with root vegetables and mushrooms, you should dare to go for wines with aromas considered more vegetal, even if it means choosing older wines, with which you will find aromas of backwoods and roasting.

For fruitier and lighter dishes, it is more natural to go for a fresher wine, made with young fruit and without barrel ageing. Dishes from the sea will pair well with mineral wines, white or red. Often, this type of product will draw its aromas from a terroir with a more maritime climate, accordingly close to the ocean or the sea. It is therefore necessary to be on the lookout for the grape varieties, the ageing process, but also the terroir and its climate! Phew!

Considering terroir pairings

This one is more of a suggestion than an advice. In the end, with food and wine pairings, you have to have fun! Go and seek the origin of your dish and have fun pairing wines from the same region for interesting regional pairings. Classics such as foie gras and Sauternes, oysters and Muscadet, cassoulet and Madiran, and smoked salmon and Chablis will always remain musts. On the other hand, have you thought of a Quebec wine to pair with your Brome Lake duck? Or a beautiful Greek white wine to enhance your appetizer of spanakopita or grilled halloum cheese? What about a Tuscan pizza topped with a well-balanced Chianti Classico?

The last ingredient for a successful food and wine pairing : audacity!

Finally, with food and wine pairings, we must be daring and learn how to trust ourselves. It is with practice that we can manage to create pairings that are perfect for us. Dare to think outside the box. Try the products offered for tasting the next time you set foot at the SAQ. Challenge yourself to recognize the aromas and structure of a wine. The more you know, the more you will develop your palate and the more instinctively the ideal pairings will come to you. Enjoy your tasting!

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