WINE PAIRING 101
When you’re sitting in a restaurant (not now, but soon!), do you ever look at a wine list, nod your head and hope for the best when the bottle is brought over? Hoping to save you from any less-than brilliant wine experiences, we asked sommelier Thomas Maiden to break down the basics of pairing wine with food in a way that’s digestible.
It turns out, like most things in life, the trick is achieving balance. Acid balances fat, tannin balances salt.
Let’s take a look at acid first. A lot of people assume they don’t like acidity, but if it’s in a well-made wine they’ll enjoy it. Next time you take a sip, notice whether your mouth starts watering once you’ve swallowed the wine. If there’s a reaction, it’s being triggered by the acidity!
Have you ever wondered how you can hold the world record for most cheese or salumi consumed while you’re drinking wine? This comes down to the acid. Every sip of wine you take refreshes your palate, priming it for more.
Looking to acquaint yourself with high acidity? Try:
2018 Erste + Neue Pinot Grigio, Alto-Adige with Squid ink spaghetti, WA blue swimmer crab, chilli, tomato, fish roe
2018 William Downie 'Cathedral' Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley with Grilled spatchcock mustard + rainbow chard
Tannins create the dry sensation that you feel and can be balanced by salt, meaning that you can experience more of what a high tannin wine has to offer when paired with something salty.
Generally, red wines are higher in tannins as the grape skins are always used during the winemaking process. Richness in white wines can be increased through processes like barrel-aging and lees-stirring, which produces buttery, oaky notes in pours like Chardonnay.
When you’re eating rich, salty meats — think our Wagyu rump cap or lamb shoulder — a more tannic wine may be your perfect match. While you may have been taught to go directly for a Shiraz with your steak, a Nebbiolo or Sangiovese may be your best bet, offering high levels of tannin and acidity. If a white wine is more appealing to your palate, match rich flavours like oily fish or pork cavatelli with Chardonnay.
Tantalised by tannins or revel in richness? Try:
2016 Bass River Chardonnay, Gippsland with Cavatelli pasta, pork sausage, broccoli
2017 Vietti Langhe Nebbiolo, Italy with Pappardelle, braised rabbit, artichoke, truffle pecorino
LET THE DRINKING BEGIN!
Everyone’s palate changes over time, so any starting point to your wine experience is good. The more you drink, the more you’ll become curious. Find your gateway wine and, armed with your new knowledge, the world is your vineyard.