“Wine doesn’t change food…
food changes wine.” – Jerry Comfort
WINE PAIRING UNCORKED
Renowned chef and Wine Educator of Beringer Vineyards Jerry Comfort demystifies pairings with a simple exercise to show how sweet, sour, and salty flavors in foods affect wines.
Here’s what you need: a slice of red apple, a lemon wedge, salt, white wine (like Sauvignon Blanc), red wine (like Cabernet Sauvignon), and water to cleanse your palate.
1. Take a bite of the apple, then take a sip of white wine.
2. Taste the lemon, then taste the wine.
3. Do the same with the salt.
4. Squeeze lemon over the remaining apple, then sprinkle salt before tasting the white wine.
Cleanse your palate in between. Repeat all of the steps, but this time with the red wine. You can try pairing chicken broth (for that umami flavor) with the wines to see what happens.
THE FOOD FACTOR
Comfort shares how some flavor components interact with the final wine balance on your palate.
Sweet and umami flavors will make wine taste stronger, drier, less sweet and fruity, more acidic, bitter and tannic.
• SWEET. sugar, most fruit and fruit juices, hoisin sauce, honey
• UMAMI. meat, seafood, poultry, tomatoes, green vegetables, ham, bacon, sauces, stocks
Sour and salty flavors will make wine taste milder, less dry, sweeter and fruitier, less acidic, bitter and tannic.
• SOUR. vinegars, lime, lemon, dry wine reduction, yogurt
• SALTY. salt, soy sauce, fish sauce, olive brine
On the restaurant level, I espouse the “Wine is King” approach that shifts the responsibility of wine and food pairing from the customer to the chef. Since the taste of the wine is a given, the flavor of the food is the other part of the equation that can be adjusted. A skilled chef, after knowing the customer’s food and wine choices, can come up with a wonderful match by carefully adjusting the acidity, salt level or the sweetness of the food to achieve a balance of flavors. The successful pairing is what creates an extraordinary dining experience, and the customer will leave completely satisfied without even knowing why.
Quick Guide to Successful Pairings
• Dishes seasoned with the right amount of salt and acidity pair with the widest variety of wines. Most dishes already have a balance of flavors and can stand up to the heartiest reds. Think white fish with lemon-butter sauce, pasta with tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese or steak seasoned and served with a slight reduction.
• Food without salt needs wine without oak. Foods that are neither very salty nor acidic like sushi, steamed fish and tofu, will go well with unoaked Chardonnay. On the other hand, a juicy salted steak will pair well with just about any wine with oak. Peppered steaks go well with bold reds because the pepper will offset the tannin and enhance the wine’s fruity taste.
• Dishes that are sweet, spicy, or dominated by umami make all wines taste more acidic. Pair these dishes with off-dry (semi-sweet) wines. Try Riesling with sushi and wasabi or sinugba favorites. Try White Zinfandel (or another off-dry rosé) with sweet and spicy buffalo chicken wings and barbecues.
• Pair sweet desserts with an even sweeter dessert wine.
Kathy Santos of Happy Living is the exclusive importer of Beringer wines in the Philippines (02) 895–6507 or 08.
This article was published in the October-November 2013 issue of F&B World Magazine, Front of House. Photography by Paolo Porquez and Pauli Antoine. Shot on location at Beringer’s Rhine House and Hudson House.