Pairing food with wine is a big trend. For restaurants and eateries to appeal to their customers, it is necessary to create delicious menus that are matched with the right wine. When done right, the components of the dish and the characteristics of the wine are perfectly balanced to accentuate their overall flavour.
Getting the food and wine parings right helps attract and retain customers by elevating their gastronomical experience when dining. You can even incorporate wine and food pairings into your restaurant’s upselling strategy to get more out of your menu.
Common Types of Wine
A hallmark of sparkling wine is that it is carbonated. It can be either made from red or white grapes. Depending on the grapes and winemaking method used, sparkling wines have a range of flavours. Examples include champaign, prosecco, and cava.
Dry White Wine
Dry wines contain little or no sugar, which means they are generally not sweet. Instead, their flavour comes from the alcohol produced during the fermentation process, and the fruit used to produce the wine. Common wines include Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and Albarino.
Sweet White Wine
Sometimes known as dessert wine, sweet wines are made from extra sweet grapes, and to give the wine an extra touch of sweetness, the fermentation is stopped before all the grape sugars are being turned into alcohol. Examples include Moscato, Riesling, and Malvasia.
Rich White Wine
Known as full-bodied wines, they have a higher alcohol content of at least 13.5%. Due to the production process, they also have more complex flavours. Examples include Chardonnay Marsanne, and Viognier.
Light Red Wine
Generally, light red wines have the least alcohol content among all red wines, usually less than 12.5%, as well as tannin levels. Pinot Noir, Zweigelt, and St. Laurant are a few examples.
Medium Red Wine
Medium-bodied red wines usually have alcohol levels ranging between 12.5% and 13.5%, as well as more tannins. Examples include Merlot, Grenache, and Red Burgundy.
Bold Red Wines
Also known as full-bodied wines, they usually have an alcohol content of over 13.5%. As their name implies, these wines have more complex and richer flavours.
How to Pair Wine and Sauce
Matching wine with food becomes complicated if sauces are involved. What goes around or on top of the dish can be much more important to wine pairings than the main ingredient. While the core ingredient of a dish determines its flavour profile, the sauce, jus, marinade or dressing also has a major impact on the overall taste and aroma. Does that fish have a tomato, cream, mushroom or tartar sauce? Is your dish served with white sauce or stew? These need to be considered when choosing the wine to go with the dish.
In fact, the sauce determines:
- What wine you should serve with the food
- Which style of wine you should serve
- The method of production
- Time in the barrel
- Sweetness and acidity
The good thing is, most sauces are derivatives of the 5 Mother Sauces of French cuisine – hollandaise sauce, bechamel sauce, velouté sauce, brown sauce, and tomato sauce. Knowing which wine and sauce pair well together can help you decide on the combination of food and wine to serve to your diners:
Paring Wine With 5 Mother Sauces
Pairing Wine with Bechamel Sauce
The foundation of most cream-based sauces and gravy, bechamel sauce is usually made out of a roux of flour, milk, and butter.
You can either match bechamel sauce-based dishes with wines that contrast with it, such as dry white wines, or a wine that accentuates its flavour, such as rich white wines.
Pairing Wine with Velouté Sauce
It is made using the same process as bechamel sauce, just that stock is used instead of milk. It is usually a base sauce to develop more flavourful dishes, such as bisques or chicken pot pies.
Depending on how the sauce is used in your dish, a variety of wines can be paired with it. Vegetable dishes goes well with dry wine. If the sauce is used to make richer dishes, rich white wines might be a better pairing. Alternatively, sparkling wines go well with velouté sauce-based foods in general.
Pairing Wine with Brown Sauce
Usually paired with proteins such as roasted lamb or steak, it is also used as the base for demi-glace sauce.
Full bodied-red wines will pair best with brown sauces, especially if used in protein dishes. The wine flavour will make your brown sauce taste richer and more robust. Alternatively, white wines such as Riesling and Gewurztraminer pairs just as well with brown sauce-based dishes.
Pairing Wine with Tomato Sauce
The versatility of tomato sauce means that it is used in a wide variety of dishes, ranging from spaghetti, grill vegetables, or even fish.
Due to its acidity from the tomatoes, dishes made with tomato sauces are best paired with medium-bodied red wines Malbec, so that the wine’s richness balances out the sauce’s acidity.
Pairing Wine with Hollandaise Sauce
Mostly commonly seen atop eggs Benedict and poached fish/chicken dishes, Hollandaise sauce is made using an emulsion of egg yolk, melted butter, and lemon juice.
Dishes with Hollandaise sauce generally pairs well with most types of wine, but for the best taste, you will want to pair them with full-bodied white or red wines.
There is no hard and fast rule to pairing wine and food. Depending on your choice of dish and the wine selection in your restaurant, you are free to experiment. Try mixing up different wines and dishes to find what works best.
By constantly changing the sauces and the wines that go with it, you can always have a menu that is constantly fresh and new!
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