Perfect Food & Drink Pairings – a guide

No alternative text description for this imageIf you are anything like me, tasty food and drink is a key element in the Covid-19 lockdown survival programme.  To make this fun, and not just functional, why not use this long period of “down” time to experiment by tasting which of your favourite foods and drinks go best together.

Of course, many foods and drinks go perfectly well together.  Wines like Pinot Grigio which are neutral in flavour and high in acidity go well with many dishes, as the wine doesn’t clash with the food.  But the interesting bit is when you pair a drink with a food and get completely new flavours you wouldn’t have tasted otherwise.

So when I was forced to spend a night in with a Hungarian wine called Juhfark (pronounced very carefully please “you fark”), and a plate of cheeses, I discovered that with parmesan cheese, you get new flavours of strawberry, quince paste, farmyard, and anchovy!  Go geeky to read more here:

No alternative text description for this imageThe really funky stuff happens when you put two strong and seemingly unlikely characters together.  A bland wine like Pinot Grigio probably won’t result in any new mind blowing flavours to savour.  So look for foods and drinks with some character.

The drink doesn’t have to be a wine!  Spirits can be great with food – Fiona Beckett, well known food matching guru, recommends the peated whisky Lagavulin with strong blue cheese.  Beers and ciders are also great with many cheeses, and non alcoholic juices, teas and coffees can also be fun to play around with.

Whatever you choose to taste, try your pairing as a “sandwich”, which means the drink first, then the food, then the drink again.

So take a mouthful of drink, coat your mouth with it, and swallow it.  Think about the main flavours you can taste.  Then take a mouthful of the food.  Especially if it is a cheese, or chocolate, let it melt and ooze round your mouth before you swallow it.  You need to fully indulge and luxuriate.  Then take a mouthful of the wine again.  What happens?  It might be that the food dominates the drink, or vice versa.  That’s no good as you want a perfect marriage of the two.  It might even be that the two co-exist happily together but nothing new and exciting happens.  That’s fine, but dare I say, a little dull?  What will amaze you is when you get totally new flavours.  Fruity wines with lighter cheeses often result in new yoghurty flavours, so if you have a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with a goat’s cheese, you might get a tangy gooseberry yoghurt.

The great thing about wine and cheese is also that it keeps the wine on your palate longer so you get more bang for your buck.

No photo description available.Here are some tips on how to go about your experiment:

  1.  Do it before you get sozzled on your chosen drink, if it is alcoholic, not afterwards;
  2.  Trying a range of foods with a drink is more fun as you can see what works and what doesn’t – so cut up several cheeses, or chocolates, so you can compare them.  Or, as I did with black truffle crisps, try different drinks with one food.  A customer said red wine was great with them so I just had to try different wines didn’t I… 😉 And then move on to the sherry….! Warning – it gets confusing if you try lots of different drinks and foods!
  3. Try to keep things simple.  Cheese, chocolate and crisps are good as you can focus on limited flavours, whereas matching a drink to a meal with complex flavours is much trickier.  For cheese, if you want to have bread or crackers too, keep them neutral, as strong flavours in the crackers or bread will ruin your experiment!
  4. Trying the pairings with others is fun, but beware the power of suggestion!
  5. Stuck for what to try?  Fiona Beckett’s website is great for ideas, but there are others.  Here’s Fiona’s page for your ease of reference:

Above all, have fun!

Author: Diana Lyalle BA (Oxon) DipWSET

Lawyer turned wine educator and tasting events host based in Wraxall, North Somerset. Wine Specialist for Harvey Nichols Bristol. All opinions expressed are those of Diana Lyalle only. Email: Mobile: 07772055928

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