The art of wine pairing doesn’t need to be an exact science. Aaron Alvarez, Head Sommelier at Belmond Maroma Resort & Spa shows you how to have fun and let your senses lead the way.
Wine pairing has always been a controversial topic. So much so that many of us shy away from the subject altogether. We all know the age-old ‘white with fish and red with red-meat’ formula, but an explosion in grape varieties, wineries and bottles have made the possibilities endless. So it’s time to throw out the rule book and let our taste buds do the talking. Try an enticing departure from the classic ritual of matching the wine to the recipe. Instead, pour yourself a glass of something you love and close your eyes. Take time to savour every sip. Then start cooking.
If you’re serving up a multi-course menu, you’ll want to keep to one golden rule: always finish with strength and flavour. To avoid overshadowing later pairings, match the lightest wines with the early courses. Pair starters and first courses with sparkling, whites and roses. Young red wines follow, then the more mature full-bodied reds. To finish, end on a sweet note with a generous full-flavoured dessert wine.
Aim to achieve a balance between the weight of the dish and the wine. For example, light starters and salads work well with young white wines. While blue fish, or fish with sauce can handle a young red. Crianza reds generally go well with grilled meats, roasts and stews. Full-bodied reserves and gran reserva are perfect for game-meat and slow-cooked red meats. Three culinary elements will always determine a wine selection: protein, the cooking method and the sauce. But! Remember, you don’t have to be conventional.
The most exquisite wine-pairings are always a play between contrast and complement—the two fundamental principles of a perfect pairing. To complement your recipe, consider the separate sensations created by the wines and the dish. Get creative by associating with a blend of colour, temperature, texture and flavour. To contrast, do just the opposite. Seek a balance between the wines and your recipe by reflecting on the opposite sensations they offer. A hot spicy dish can be deliciously tamed by a refreshing dry white. While a salty cheese like Cabrales blends beautifully with a softening sweet wine.
A wonderful wine can enhance any occasion. The greater the celebration, the more important the choice of wine. Of course, bubbles are almost always obligatory on special occasions. But in some cases, a rare and exquisite wine can steal the show. The lesson is, don’t wait ‘til the last second to pick something out, make your choice mindfully. Whether you keep a sentimental wine for precisely this purpose, or you pick up a bottle with a rare provenance, a great wine can make life’s sweetest moments even sweeter.
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