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Food and Italian Wine Pairing 101 – A Crash Course to Complementing Your Food With Wine

We all know that Italian wine and food go together like two peas in a pod.

How’s that for a food-based cliché for an article that focuses on food?

Pairing the right foods and wines together has a massive impact on your dining experience. If you get it right, you are able to enhance the flavours in the wine and the food by choosing things that complement each other.

Get it wrong and one will overwhelm the other, resulting in you failing to get the full experience. In some cases, the clash of flavours will be so intense that you risk ruining the meal entirely.

So, how about we make sure that this bad situation doesn’t happen to you?

In this article, we’re going to present a little bit of a primer for people who are unsure about what to do when pairing Italian wine with food. Follow these tips and you are likely to get a lot more out of your dining experience.

Tip #1 – The Acid Balance

We often think of acids as dangerous chemicals that can burn through things. And while that is the case for some acids, the fact is that there are acids in so many of the things that we consume. When you eat an orange, you’re consuming citric acid. When you put vinegar on your food, you’re adding acid to it. And of course, acidity is one of the key things we look for in Italian wines.

So, in pairing wine with food, you want to ensure the acid balance is right.

How?

Always aim to ensure that your wine is just a touch more acidic than your food.

Going the other way means that the combination of the food’s acidity and flavours will completely overwhelm your wine, making the drink seem flat in comparison.

Tip #2 – Red or White

Let’s go super general with this next one.

Red wines go better with some dishes than others. The same is true of white wines. So, if you’re in a pinch and need to make a quick selection, which should you go for?

As a very general rule, red wines pair better with dishes that have rich textures and flavours. For example, red meats, with their interesting flavours, pair much better with red wines than they do with whites.

By contrast, white wines pair better with foods that are a little more delicate in their flavour. As examples, you’ll find white wine pairs better with pasta and most forms of fish than red wines.

So, our general rule could go something like this:

The richer the food, the more likely you are to pair red wine with it. Mild goes with mild and rich goes with rich.

Tip #3 – Focus on the Dominant Flavours

Unless you’re trying to eat as cleanly as possible, it’s likely that you’re going to use sauces and condiments to add additional flavours to your dishes. That can make wine pairing difficult as it means you have a bunch of different flavours to consider.

The solution.

Focus on the most dominant flavours in both.

When you experience a wine’s bouquet, there will always be dominant notes that stand out from the rest. Remember those notes and then think about the dominant flavours in your dish.

Do the dominant notes and flavours mesh together?

If they do, you likely have a good food and Italian wine pairing. Just note that this isn’t a perfect strategy. There are times when minor notes and flavours can throw the balance off. But as a general rule, match dominant to dominant and you’re likely to have a good experience.

Tip #4 – The Sweetness Test

So, we talked earlier about how your wine should generally have a little more acidity than your food.

The same goes for sweetness.

Imagine that you’re eating a rich chocolate dessert. However, you pair it with a dry wine that doesn’t have much sweetness to it. That wine is going to be so overwhelmed by the flavours in the dessert that you may as well not be drinking it.

However, if you’re wine is just a touch sweeter than the dessert, you end up with an interesting combination of sweet flavours that you can enjoy.

Tip #5 – The Spice Conundrum

Spicy foods are amazing. There are so many delectable treats in Indian and Chinese food that we’re sure you’d like to enjoy with a decent glass of wine. The problem is that spices are also powerful things. And more often than not, they’re going to completely overshadow any wine pairing you go for.

So, how do you solve the spice conundrum?

Go for an off-dry white wine, such as Riesling.

The wine will be dry enough to absorb the spice in the food while still being strong enough to place its own stamp on the experience.

Tip #6 – Balancing With Fat

Let’s say you have a fatty dish. For example, you’ve cooked a prime cut of steak and you happen to be the type of person who enjoys a bit of fat in their meal.

What wine should you go for to ensure you complement the fat as well as the richness of the meat?

In these cases, you’re looking for a wine with some bitter notes. The bitterness in the wine meshes well with the textures of the fat, allowing you to create a contrast that actually works.

The Final Word

This is by no means the definitive guide on how to pair Italian wine and food. There are many more nuances and little tips we could provide for specific foods. In fact, if you check the recipes that we often share in the blog, you’ll see that we often pick out specific wines that we feel will go well with the dishes we encourage you to create.

Instead, think of this article as a basic primer.

It’s a collection of six little tips (or rules) that you can apply when making your choices. Follow these rules and you’re much more likely to end up with pairings that work.

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