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How to pair your wine with food

Tasting the wine before engaging it with food is key

I write this after giving a workshop at Vinexpo Explorer in Austria last month.

My workshop was entitled Wine Pairing 101, 201 & 301, like in a university course.

The starting point when pairing wine with food is to first taste the wine before engaging it with the food.

Taste the wine and log its flavours, texture and personality into the memory bank.

That way, when you subsequently introduce the wine to the food, you will know how its taste has altered - how the wine behaves, misbehaves or become enhanced and enchanted with the food.

PAIRING 101

Three possible scenarios occur when you pair wine with food.

The first is an accident or a collision. A Master of Wine (MW) once said that champagne goes with everything.

The single most important consideration in pairing red wine with food is the state or condition of its tannins.

Really? Would you really want to drink a frisky, zippy, high-acid bubbly with a piece of steak or Cantonese roast goose?

The meat will just bounce off the champagne.

Another horrible head-on collision would be pairing a full-bodied Barossa Valley Shiraz or Chateauneuf-du-Pape with raw oysters or belly tuna sashimi.

The reaction will be so fishy or metallic that you will need a gas mask to purify the air from your breath.

The second scenario is what I call a "Happy Coexistence".

The wine tastes the same when paired with the food and the food remains just as it tasted before being matched with the wine.

Nothing changes, but also nothing is gained. This may be better than an accident, but it's essentially a neutral situation.

The third possibility is the ideal. This is where the wine draws out extra flavours from the food which were not there when the food was tasted on its own.

The food returns the favour by coaxing out nuances in the wine which were previously hidden. Wine and food have discovered chemistry.

In Vienna, one such heavenly match was the stir-fried fish fillet with ginger and spring onion with Laurenz V Charming 2010, a buttery, creamy, round, supple Gruner Veltliner.

PAIRING 201

The single most important consideration in pairing red wine with food is the state or condition of its tannins. For a dish to pair well with wine, the tannins need to be resolved and evolved, and be smooth and melded with the fruit of the wine.

If the tannins are edgy and roaring, it's World War III between wine and food.

At Vinexpo Explorer, the tea-smoked duck was positively in love with Schneider Thermenregion Reserve Pinot Noir 2009, whose tannins were smooth, soft and silky.

In Chinese cuisine, soya sauce is a major component of cooking. Soya sauce, being fermented, adds a considerable, sometimes even pronounced, taste to the ingredients of a dish.

If you used salt instead of soya sauce to cook the same ingredients, it becomes relatively easier to pair the food with wine.

Salt is considerably neutral in taste compared to soya sauce.

PAIRING 301

While wine pairing is not an exact science, it's not anything goes either. One way to make red wine more agreeable with fish is to braise the fish, deep-fry it in a batter, or serve the fish with a sauce of the same red wine.

tnp@sph.com.sg

The writer is a lawyer and a wine consultant at FairPrice. He is also the wine columnist at Lianhe Zaobao.

A Master of Wine once said that champagne goes with everything. Really? Would you really want to drink a frisky, zippy, high-acid bubbly with a piece of steak or Cantonese roast goose?

RECOMMENDATIONS

How to pair your wine with food RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Tesco Finest Pinot Grigio 2015 A light, refreshing, crisp Italian white brimming with apple/citrus fruit. A can't-put-down aperitif but also with enough persistence of fruit to enjoy with vegetarian, shellfish and tofu dishes.
How to pair your wine with food RECOMMENDATIONS
2. Tesco Finest Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 Light pale straw. Intensely aromatic. Green guavas and passion fruit. Lively, fruity, crisp and fresh. This New Zealand classic will be particularly popular with new converts craving a fruity and very fresh white wine.
How to pair your wine with food RECOMMENDATIONS
3. Tesco Finest Gavi 2016 Bright straw with a shimmering green tinge. Scented green/ripening pineapples. Elegant unctuous, slightly buttery texture with a dash of citrus zest on the finish. Excellent on its own and with fish and shellfish
How to pair your wine with food RECOMMENDATIONS
4. Tesco Finest Picpoul de Pinet A zesty white bristling with green pineapples/Granny Smith apples/green citrus fruit. Invigorating and bone-dry. Perfect as an aperitif and to pair with deep-fried and finger foods.
How to pair your wine with food RECOMMENDATIONS
5. Tesco Finest Vina del Cura Estate Bottled Rioja Reserva 2012 Vina del Cura is part of the Baron de Ley Group and the wine is offered via Tesco Finest. The fruit is red and black plums with an undertone of toastiness. The ripe tannins are soft but crisp. Mediumplus- ish, this Tempranillo will pair deliciously with steak, beef and lamb.
How to pair your wine with food RECOMMENDATIONS
8. Tesco Finest Argentina Malbec 2015 Ruby/garnet shine. Blueberry/blackberry fruit with a spiced, liquorice aspect. Fresh and fruity with ripe, soft tannins. Produced by Argentina's famous Catena family, this wine over-delivers on price/ quality ratio. Irresistible with chicken, duck and lamb.
How to pair your wine with food RECOMMENDATIONS
7. Quirky Bird Shiraz Mourvedre Viognier 2016 Raspberries and cherries. Fruity and fresh. The tannins are very soft. Light, fresh, engaging red straight out of the screw cap from Western Cape, South Africa. Enjoyable on its own and excellent with chicken, pork and ham.
How to pair your wine with food RECOMMENDATIONS
8. Tesco Finest Argentina Malbec 2015 Ruby/garnet shine. Blueberry/blackberry fruit with a spiced, liquorice aspect. Fresh and fruity with ripe, soft tannins. Produced by Argentina's famous Catena family, this wine over-delivers on price/ quality ratio. Irresistible with chicken, duck and lamb.
How to pair your wine with food RECOMMENDATIONS
9. Tesco Blanquette de Limoux Bright straw/light gold. Yellow citrus and apples on the nose and palate. Very fresh and also a soft creaminess. Dry, vivacious and very balanced. This sparkling wine from the south of France dates back to the 16th century.
How to pair your wine with food RECOMMENDATIONS
10. Tesco Finest Cava 2014 Bright straw with ripe apple. This vintage Spanish sparkling is produced from three varieties: Macabeo, Parellada and Xarello. It is an excellent aperitif and delicious with shellfish, seafood, tempura, dim sums and pakoras.
How to pair your wine with food RECOMMENDATIONS
11. Tesco Finest Demi-Sec Cava Light gold. Peachy, citrussy and appley. The medium- sweetness is lifted by freshness which makes this Spanish sparkling as engaging on its own as it is with deep-fried foods, fish, shellfish, and Thai, Sichuan and Northern Indian dishes.
How to pair your wine with food RECOMMENDATIONS
12. Tesco Finest Prosecco DOC Produced by Bisol, the aroma and palate of pears and fresh, round acidity of this Italian sparkling makes it delicious with finger and deep- fried foods.

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