Here at Asiago’s in Boise, we take great pride in providing our guests with the freshest ingredients to make delectable, authentic Italian food. What goes well with gourmet Italian food? Wine, of course! In this blog, we are going to learn about food and wine pairing basics to help you out the next time you’re at Asiago’s. This simple, short guide will show you the way pairing wines with different foods works. Although as much as pairing food and wine is complex, the basics can be simple to grasp. Let’s start off with the difference between congruent pairings and contrasting pairings.
Congruent Pairings vs. Contrasting Pairings
A contrasting pairing creates balance by contrasting tastes and flavors.
A congruent pairing creates balance by amplifying shared flavor compounds.
Identify The Basics Tastes
In today’s world of health and science, we have learned that more than 20 different tastes are found in food. Fortunately, in regards to food and wine, you only have to know about the classic six:
The Basic Taste Components in Wine
Generally, wine lacks the three tastes of fatness, spiciness, and saltiness — for a good reason too. Although, they do contain acidity, sweetness, and bitterness in varying degrees. For the most part, you can group wines into three different categories:
- Red wines have more bitterness.
- White, rosé, and sparkling wines have more acidity.
- Sweet wines have more sweetness.
Basic Taste Components in Food
At Asiago’s, we simplify a dish down to its basic dominant tastes. For example, baked macaroni has two primary components: fat and salt. A lot of Italian cuisines revolve around salt, acid, sweetness, bitterness, and fat. Even dishes without meat can be simplified. For example, a green salad offers acidity and bitterness; creamed corn offers fatness and sweetness.
We Consider the Food’s Intensity
For the Food: Is the food light or rich? We serve a few salads, and although they may seem light on the outside, we use vinaigrettes that are high in acidity. If the intensity of the dish isn’t apparent at first, we just focus on the power of each taste component (acidity, fat, sweet, etc.).
For the Wine: Is the wine light or bold? Here are a few examples:
- Sauvignon Blanc is light-bodied, but has higher acidity
- Chardonnay has more body, but is usually not too acidic
- Pinot Noir is lighter bodied (for a red wine), and doesn’t have too much bitterness
- Cabernet Sauvignon is more full-bodied and has more bitterness
Find Contrasting or Congruent Pairings
Now that you’ve learned all the basic taste components in an Italian dish, you can start playing around with pairing options the next time you come in. The simple example of macaroni will offer up several possible pairings.
A white wine with high acidity will complement the fat in the macaroni. For example, a traditional mac and cheese recipe with a creamy béchamel sauce matched with a zesty white wine such as Pinot Grigio, Assyrtiko, or Sauvignon Blanc would create a potential Complementary Pairing.
A white wine that is a little thicker will add to the creaminess of the dish. For example, that same traditional mac and cheese recipe with a creamy béchamel sauce matched with a creamy white wine such as Viognier or Chardonnay would create a Congruent Pairing.
For something like red meat, wines that pair well usually lean on the congruent side as we recommend a type of red wine like a Cabernet. You can’t go wrong with a Cabernet, as it is called the “people pleaser” of wines. Good pairings for red meat also include Malbec and Syrah (Shiraz).
Getting Creative at Home
Now that you have a basic understanding of wine pairings, try experimenting at home! Once you create balance with the major taste components in both the wine and the dish, you can get creative by pairing the more subtle flavors. Try mixing a red wine with that macaroni example. The saltiness of the macaroni and the high bitterness of a red wine will leave you with the subtle remaining flavors of both the food and the wine. This contradiction balances each other out and can be quite delicious.
Another example of getting creative is trying a sweet wine with something that is salty and has a hint of sweetness that could make your tastebuds dance. For example, a salty dish that has dates in it could complement each other very well. Or, going back to the macaroni example, adding ham to the meal and pairing it with a sweet wine will bring out all of the flavors in the macaroni.
Have any questions? Feel free to call our gourmet Italian restaurant here in Boise. We are here to serve you, whether it be with our fresh food or to answer any concerns. Take a look at our menu and try to pair wines with our entrees here!