We often talk about how amazing Italian food is.
We don’t really need to.
After all, we’ve seen a huge array of Italian foods enter the popular zeitgeist. No matter where you go in the world, you’re likely going to be able to find pizza, pasta, and so many other Italian classics. You cannot underestimate the penetration of Italian food culture into the rest of the world.
Of course, this has been achieved because of the amazing quality of Italian food. And for many, true joy comes from being able to pair these foods with gorgeous Italian wines.
However, there is one country that is able to go toe-to-toe with Italy in terms of both the quality of its food and the taste of its wines.
For as much as there is a friendly competition between the wine industries of France and Italy, there is also a healthy respect. France has had an enormous influence on the Italian wine industry, which has been repaid in kind. And much like with Italy, there are few things better than being able to combine a French delicacy with a gorgeous French wine.
But what if you want to shake things up a bit?
What if you want to pair a French delicacy with an Italian wine?
The good news is that it’s possible.
You just need to follow these tips to ensure your novel pairing doesn’t end up as a disaster.
Tip #1 – Research the Traditional French Pairing First
Your first step should be to figure out what the French tend to pair with your delicacy of choice. Much like with Italy, you will often find that local delicacies have specific wines that go best with them. More widespread dishes may have a larger variety of choices, as more people have been able to experiment and find wines to fit the dish.
The reason you should research these wines is so that you can get an idea of the ideal flavour profile that suits the dish.
The traditional pairings clue you into specific types of grapes that go well with the dish, as well as which notes work well. You’ll also get an idea of whether the dish pairs well with complex and rich wines, or whether it works best with something more refreshing that can act as a palette cleanser.
Ultimately, this early research will help you as you search for a wine that offers similar qualities to the traditional French pairings.
Tip #2 – Research Similar Italian Dishes
While there is plenty to separate French and Italian cuisine, many traditional dishes will have similarities. This is something you can leverage to find a great Italian wine pairing for a French delicacy.
The idea is simple.
Examine your French dish.
Then, look for Italian dishes that use similar ingredients and cooking styles. If you can find an Italian equivalent, the odds are good that the wine that pairs with the Italian dish will work just as well when it’s paired with the French dish.
This isn’t a perfect science.
Individual ingredients, and even your choice of seasoning, can have an impact on the dish. This impact will have to be accounted for when making your Italian wine choice. Still, you can at least get a baseline wine to experiment with before looking for something that more closely matches the intricacies of the French delicacy.
Tip #3 – The Golden Rule Still Applies
While we could spend an eternity getting into the intricacies of different flavour profiles, there is a golden rule for pairing Italian wines and food that applies just as much to French foods as it does Italian ones.
Red wines tend to work best with red meats and richer foods.
White wines often go with lighter foods, such as pasta.
Again, this isn’t a perfect rule. Some reds will go better with richer dishes than others, for example. But if you’re really struggling, you can follow this rule and generally know that you’ll get a decent result. Better yet, you’ll also give yourself a good idea about what did and didn’t work in the pairing, which is useful information to know for the next time you make the dish.
Tip #4 – Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment
The true joy of pairing Italian wines with any kind of food is that there are no hard and fast rules. Every pairing is open to interpretation. A combination that other people adore may not suit your personal tastes. Similarly, a pairing that works well for you may not work as well as others.
So, our simple tip here is to allow yourself to experiment.
Far too often, we get caught up in the idea that there has to be a “correct” wine pairing for the foods that we eat. And while it’s generally accepted that there are certain loose rules to follow, such as pairing earthy wines with earthy dishes or combining low-alcohol wines with spicy foods, these rules are not set in stone.
So, try out different pairings and see what results you get.
When you have information about an ideal pairing to hand, use it and then build from it. There may be something in the pairing that doesn’t work for you, which is okay. The Italian wine industry offers such an enormous variety of wines that you’re sure to find something that works, as long as you’re willing to experiment.
The Final Word
We’d love to be able to give you a magical formula for pairing Italian wines and French foods.
Unfortunately, such a formula doesn’t exist.
So, your strategy should be to approach the pairing in the same way that you would an Italian pairing. Do some research to see what other people recommend. Look for wines that match the flavour notes you discover and spend some time experimenting. Don’t restrict yourself solely to what you think is a “correct” pairing.
Instead, use the “rules” of pairing wine with food as a guide and then explore your own tastes from there.
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