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10 Commandments of Wine Pairing

When food is paired well with wine, hav­ing a bite of food will make you want a sip of wine, and hav­ing a sip of wine will make you want a bite of food. You expe­ri­ence a won­der­ful see­saw reac­tion between the com­bin­ing fla­vors. Meals then become less of a chore and more of an enter­tain­ment of the sens­es, which is one of the rea­sons why we love what we do; we’re pas­sion­ate about craft­ing wines that make a meal memorable. \

Find­ing this reac­tion is easy when you remem­ber these 10 food and wine pair­ing commandments:

  1. Exper­i­ment, exper­i­ment, exper­i­ment. While there are gen­er­al rules of thumb to keep in mind when pair­ing wine and food, the first thing to remem­ber is that exper­i­men­ta­tion is king! Don’t be afraid to explore unusu­al com­bi­na­tions of aro­mas, tastes, and tex­tures. There is no sin­gle one wine you are sup­posed” to drink with every dish, espe­cial­ly since every­one has dif­fer­ent tastes. Have fun try­ing dif­fer­ent wines with dif­fer­ent foods, and you’ll cre­ate an arse­nal of ter­rif­ic pair­ings ready to be shared.
  2. Match your weights. The weight of your wine should be in bal­ance with the weight of your food, oth­er­wise one will over­whelm the oth­er and the see­saw reac­tion you’re in search of is lost. Think of how intense your fla­vors are. A full bod­ied, intense wine will stand up to the strength of a hearty dish; a del­i­cate meal needs a lighter bod­ied, ele­gant wine to mir­ror its sub­tle fla­vors. Keep the weights equal.
  3. Mir­ror or con­trast. Many peo­ple think that you can only eat and drink sim­i­lar­ly fla­vored things for a pair­ing to be a suc­cess. We say, con­tra­dict those fla­vors, too! You can mir­ror or con­trast a meal’s fla­vor with wine and find that the pair­ing is beau­ti­ful­ly bal­anced. Chardon­nay and a lob­ster bisque are an exam­ple of mir­ror­ing; they are both rich and creamy. Try jux­ta­pos­ing those fla­vors with a sparkling wine, whose acid­i­ty and car­bon­a­tion offer a total­ly dif­fer­ent expe­ri­ence, and your palate might just scream with delight.
  4. Build up. When chefs design a mul­ti-course meal, they gen­er­al­ly devel­op the fla­vors so they increase and inten­si­fy each step of the way. Wine should be orga­nized the same. Wake up your palate at the begin­ning of a meal with a lighter bod­ied wine, and arc” your pair­ings so that as the meal pro­gress­es, you are drink­ing lighter to fuller bod­ied and dri­er to sweet­er wines.
  5. Sug­ar and spice makes every­thing nice. Like spicy foods? Look for off dry wines. These wines will be sweet­er and have resid­ual sug­ar (sug­ar that was not con­vert­ed into alco­hol in the wine­mak­ing process). The sweet­ness of the wine will coun­ter­act the spici­ness of the food, cre­at­ing a bal­ance. When deal­ing with off dry wines, make sure the wine is sweet­er than the dish, oth­er­wise the wine will appear sour or bitter.
  6. Method of pro­duc­tion. You’ve decid­ed on salmon for din­ner, great! But are you hav­ing it cold and raw, baked with lemon, or grilled on a cedar plank? Don’t pop a bot­tle of wine until you know how you will be prepar­ing your entire meal, since the way you cook food can dras­ti­cal­ly change its fla­vors and texture.
  7. Acid­i­ty and fat. If your dish has a lot of nat­ur­al fat in it, you cooked it in but­ter or fin­ished it off with a good driz­zling of oil, pair it with a wine that has a high­er acid­i­ty. Not sure how to mea­sure a wine’s acid­i­ty? Have a sip of wine, swal­low, and open your mouth. Does your mouth fill instant­ly with sali­va? High acid­i­ty. Does it take a while before you notice any­thing? Low acid­i­ty. Fat­ty foods need a con­cen­trat­ed wine to bal­ance their weight; add an acid­i­ty that will cut through the fat and your palate will thank you.
  8. Acid­i­ty and salt. Salt and acid­i­ty cre­ate an amaz­ing one-two punch. Acid­i­ty decreas­es the per­cep­tion of salti­ness; salti­ness decreas­es the per­cep­tion of acid­i­ty. There are count­less exam­ples of how these two fla­vors enhance each oth­er: Cham­pagne and fried chick­en, sauvi­gnon blanc and oys­ters, an Ital­ian red with pas­ta Bolognese.
  9. Con­sid­er condi­ments, sauces, and sides. While steak may be the dom­i­nat­ing fla­vor of your dish, remem­ber that the cof­fee rub you mar­i­nat­ed it in or the spicy lemon cous­cous you are serv­ing it with will change the over­all fla­vor entire­ly. Often the accom­pa­ni­ments of a meal pro­vide more unique or extreme fla­vor addi­tions than the main. So if your sauce or side has a pow­er­house fla­vor, use that as your wine pair­ing inspiration.
  10. Think region­al. One of the most basic philoso­phies to fol­low is enjoy­ing wine and food that are made in the same region. Peo­ple have been imbib­ing wine for hun­dreds of years. Your great-great-grand­moth­er wasn’t search­ing through a world­ly cel­lar to find a wine to serve with her din­ners. She chose a wine that was made near­by. Trust that the food of a region will taste great with the wine of that region. It’s a com­ple­men­tary fla­vor story.


Beckmen Advice

We rec­om­mend pair­ing the act of cook­ing with the act of drink­ing wine. Rosé is the ide­al apéri­tif to sip on as you are prepar­ing your meal. Our favorite din­ner pair­ing? Lamb and Syrah. The com­bi­na­tion of the del­i­cate, earthy fla­vors of the lamb match­es beau­ti­ful­ly with the pep­pery bold­ness of the Syrah. Keep some syrah around for after din­ner, when it becomes the per­fect pair­ing for pop­corn topped with fresh cracked pepper.

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