Have you ever watched the Disney movie Ratatouille? If you haven’t, add it to your movie list and enjoy! If you have, you’ll know that pivotal scene I am referring to in the movie where they playfully display the fun of cooking and magic of pairing. The main character eats a piece of cheese and time slows down, the lights are dimmed to black, music starts to play and bright colours spark in the background. Then, he eats a strawberry, another song plays, another set of colours spark, he pauses, and finally, he eats them together and FIREWORKS! That is the feeling I aim to achieve every time I think about pairing my meals – the fireworks!
There are two ways you can approach meal pairings: either I am having “X” for dinner, what should I pair my wine with, or I have a bottle of “X” ready to be opened, what should I have for dinner.
Pairing Your Food with Wine
Let’s start with pairing food with wine. There are a lot of general “rules” out there that you have probably heard of but here are a few tips that I use when I have my menu planned:
- When having Meat Dishes: Think of the sauce and not the colour of the meat. You hear a lot of times to pair red meats with red wines and white meats with white wines (which is not wrong) but really, you could have a chicken with a balsamic vinegar which would work well with a high acidic, light red like the LaStella’s Classic D’Osoyoos to bring out their bright fruit flavours.
- When having Spicy Food: Pair a lighter alcohol and off dry wine like Riesling to alleviate the spices in the food and subdue the heat flavours. That being said, there are spice lovers out there who enjoy adding a little fire to the flame and I would suggest going for a bold, fruity flavoured wine like the Le Vieux Pin’s Syrah.
- When having Fatty Food: Pair an acidic wine with a higher alcohol percentage to cut through the fat of a meat dish and liven it up! You can also find a more bitter (or high tannic) red wine to balance the fat.
- When having Creamy Dishes: Pair a bold, dark red with fruity flavours like my favourite LaStella Espressivo.
- When having Acidic Dishes: Try and pair an acidic dish with an even more acidic wine. The acid in the food will bring out the subtle fruit flavours of the wine.
- When having Dessert: Dessert wines go best, but you can also go with a sweeter white wine as well like a Sauternes. I find a common pairing is people having an acidic wine like champagne with chocolate covered strawberries or a bitter chocolate tart with a red wine. The bitterness and acidity are amplified and it just does not work!
Pairing your Wine with Food
Now that we have covered the basics of pairing wine with food, let’s talk about the flip side of things – Pairing your meals with wines. How I usually pair it is by thinking of the properties of the grape and wine itself.
- Pinot Noir: Generally, pinot noir is known for its fruity tasting notes, high acid, and low tannins. A great pairing with that would be a Roasted Duck with a possible touch of spice.
- Cabernet Franc: Known for being high in tannin with notes of black and ripe fruits, I would lean towards a nice prime rib! This is one of those circumstances where I go with the rule “pair red meats with red wines”.
- Syrah: When I think of Syrah, I think pepper notes, dark plums and blackberries right away. Try thinking of foods that have a good variety of spices that can be amplified in a dish but compliment the wines like a Roasted Lamb. Sometimes a good way to pair wines is by matching the flavour with flavour (acid with acid, sweet with sweet, earthy with earthy).
- Merlot: The infamous “black forest cake” in a bottle – LaStella Fortissimo pairs well with blue cheese and goat cheese.
With white wines, you are looking at lighter flavours rather than bold, comfort meals. I wouldn’t go as far as saying you should drink red only in the winters and whites in the summers because there is always a time and place for everything!
- Pinot Grigio: Known for being light, crisp, and citrusy, I would stick to lighter flavours and match acid with acid. Seafood accompanies this wine well with a nice salad, or light pasta sauce (pesto)
- Sauvignon Blanc: This wine can swing differently depending on the region and can range from being dry to off dry, high acid to medium acidity, etc. but for the most part, the flavour profiles stay the same – citrus and stone fruits with grassy notes. I like to pair it with spring vegetables, fish, and creamy cheeses like brie. You could also pair this with a nice light grilled chicken with a balsamic glaze.
- Chardonnay: Most people’s first thought when it comes to chardonnay is “oaky and full bodied” like our Le Vieux Pin Chardonnay. I lean into that and try to find something that has mushrooms or truffles, and a cream-based fish or seafood dish.
- Riesling: Another white wine that can be both dry or off dry, it usually has characteristics of stone fruit but with age, a lot of honey and petrol too. I would go for the spicier dishes with this one like curries.
- Moscato: I always think of this wine as a dessert on its own especially when you smell and taste those fuzzy peaches! I would normally pair this with dessert but like Riesling, you could also pair Moscato with spicier food.
Whichever way you choose to go about planning your next meal, always remember it’s a personal journey for everyone. Have fun with the process! You might surprise yourself with what you can uncover when you break a few rules!
Written by Jen Garcia, Edited by Nicole Lee