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Match Making at the Table

It always seems that in our challenging lives, we are always trying to achieve perfection. We always strive for the ideal match for everything that involves our world. We want to make sure we pair the right shoes with the appropriate outfit, the top schools for our studious children, the best investment tools for our current financial status, or the most flavorful wine to pair with our savory dishes.

Throughout the years we tend to follow trends and fashions that assist us in making our ultimate decisions. As the wine industry continues to blossom, so does the interest and knowledge of today’s consumers. The constant exposure to today’s wines and cutting edge cuisine continues to keep us on our toes with exciting approaches and ideas. We have come along way from the standard white wine with fish and red wine with meat rule.

It all starts in the kitchen with our culinary leaders of the world. Today top-rated chefs are experimenting and utilizing ingredients that most never knew existed years ago. The convenience and availability of acquiring exotic and unique ingredients has opened the doors to new and innovative cooking methods. The ultimate goal is to extract enjoyable and pleasant flavors as much as possible. Even though some of these ingredients such as saffron, truffles, ginger, and balsamic vinegar to name a few have been around for centuries, we are now beginning to see their popularity. Take these simple ingredients and apply creative cooking methods and you’ll be amazed by the resulting flavors.

At the same token, passionate and talented winemakers are producing wines with amazing characteristics and structure. Modern technology has produced phenomenal results for the wine industry in terms of quality and achievements. But many have begun turning to old world methods of producing ‘good’ wine that is meant to be enjoyed with food.

According to past time (gastronomy) etiquette, wine must be accompanied by every meal or course. The obvious approach of pairing our fish and poultry with white wine and our meats with red wine has been overlooked for the even more obvious reasons, flavor profiles. As winemakers spend endless hours in their vineyards and wineries trying to extract the ultimate flavors in their wine, chefs are formulating which ingredients to add to their next masterpiece. One of the most important elements here is to understand the nature of each entity’s achievements. Understanding the wine along with understanding the food is critical when it comes to pairing the two.

The formula can be broken down to a very simple method for pairing. Keep in mind that wine has a natural element of acidity that contributes to the structure of the wine. Wines that have a higher level of acidity, the lighter and sharper it’s going to be. The lower the acidity, then the wine becomes heavier and rounder. These basic acknowledgements of the wine, whether it is white or red, will assist us in deciding which dishes to pair or vice-versa. For example, if we decide to open a bottle of light bodied red such as Xinomavro or Agiorgitiko, or light bodied whites, such as Roditis or Moschofilero, we can pair it with hearty vegetable salads, rich savory soups, grilled fish with pronounced seasoning or fish stews, varieties of poultry, and practically any flavorful mezedakia. Both the light bodied whites and reds can pair very nicely with any of the above-mentioned dishes cause of structure and acidity levels. The acidity of either can cut through oils, spices, and fat of the food to create a harmony of flavors. Another great example is pairing a fresh and crisp Assyrtiko wine from Santorini that pairs well with grilled lamb chops. The lemony and citrus flavors of the Assyrtiko tango eloquently with the sizzling and zesty flavors of the grilled chops. There is plenty of acidity to break through the chop and create that finger licking effect. A similar effect can be applied when pairing a light bodied red wine with ‘psari plaki’. The flavors of the fish prepared with braised tomatoes and onions pair very well with the berry flavors of the red wine. The tones of spice in the red wine play very well with the spices of the fish dish. Once again, we are pulling out similar flavor profiles from each component.

For white wines we are looking for characteristics of citrus, zest, creaminess, along with either flavor of apricot, pears, and apples to pair with dishes that have similar flavor qualities. When it comes to red wines, we are looking for elements of spice, fruit berry flavors and tannins to also pair with dishes that tend to have similar profiles. Once we can identify the two, we can begin pairing and you will be amazed at the outcome. One rule of thumb that I go by is to never be afraid to try it even if you think it might not work. Some of the best pairings I have experienced is from taking chances.