HOW TO MAKE A SUCCESS OF YOUR AGREEMENTS?
This is a very good question and at the same time one of the most extensive in the wine field. I will nevertheless reveal you some manufacturing secrets on the agreements between the dishes and the wines, but not only!
WHAT ARE WE EATING?
That’s the first question you need to ask yourself. Do we make a meal in relation to the wine or do we choose the wine in relation to the dish? In a meal starter, main course, cheese and dessert, each main course should in theory have its own wine. But you know as well as I do, this is very rarely the case. The solution? Choose a wine that will adapt to the whole meal? I’m sorry to tell you this, but this wine doesn’t exist. You will find a wine that can”do the trick”. This is why I often make the meal according to the wine and/or according to a theme.
BY THEME ? WHAT A GREAT IDEA!
I know, I know ! But calm down!
Choose a wine by theme! Yeah, but what theme? To give you an example, it will be easier to plan a unique wine on the theme of the sea or game, etc.. This theme can also be geographical: Alsace, the south-west, etc. It is necessary to know it, the simplest association very often remains the regional agreement (Riesling with sauerkraut, Cahors with duck confit, rosé de Provence with bouillabaisse…) and this, even if some regional agreements work less well than others. They are often used to limit damage. Sauerkraut and gewurztraminer? It’s not ideal, but in a lot of cases, it’ll be an illusion.
THAN DRINKING ON DAYS WHEN YOU DON’T EAT SAUERKRAUT?
The easiest way to achieve your agreements is to break down your dishes, ingredient by ingredient and find the element(s) that predominate in terms of flavor and aromatic power. Then, you must find a wine according to the desired effect.
But let’s take a concrete example: Sunday roast chicken!
For a simple and effective choice, I advise you two choices:
THE FIRST CHOICE: a red Bordeaux rather supple and fruity without too many tannins. Classic and traditional, without great risk to please the greatest number. For the big family tables of the Sunday meal.
THE SECOND CHOICE: a Cabernet Franc from the Loire like a Saumur Champigny, lighter but with notes of candied fruit and a rustic texture. Barely more daring, but very interesting when it comes to texture balance.
The tender and juicy chicken meat goes very well with generous but discreet red wines.
OUI MAIS !
What if the-said chicken was playing tricks on us? What if your hostess decides to change the recipe without telling anyone? What if the chicken turns into a lime and ginger marinated chicken? The whole deal will have to change! (“note to myself: a white Marsannay – white Chardonnay from Burgundy – would be perfect”).
The simpler a dish is, the easier the food and wine pairing will be and vice versa.
BUT DON’T CRY! I’LL HELP YOU!
Agreements are like marriages that we wish the most perfect possible. There are two main things to remember: either we grant or we oppose.
Spicy dish: Fruity red to soften or powerful red and tannic to strengthen and support.
Sweet dessert: Dry white to refresh, sweet white to comfort
I think you’re beginning to understand! Feeling better?
The most important thing when it comes to matching dishes and drinks will not be written in a book or on the internet, except here 😉 ! First you have to do what YOU like. There’s no point in looking for the best white wine for your vanilla-flavored bar fillet if you don’t like white wine. If you only like the powerful and spicy red Côtes du Rhône..:
Treat yourself! These are YOUR tastes!
One of the keys to finding the right match: trust the grape variety if you don’t know the aromas and taste of a wine. Most labels now indicate the grape variety(ies) and their proportions.
Here is a list of deciphering the grape varieties.
Caution GENERALITIES ALERT ! Most wine merchants and oenologists would scream scandal at the reductive side of this list but first of all it is not for them that I write this blog and secondly, it is only a beginning and it will already allow you to triumph for most classical pairing.
Gamay: Light and fruity. Currant, black currant, raspberry. A little more concentrated in the Beaujolais vintages (Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent). Salads, light dishes, aperitifs.
Pinot noir: Light to powerful (in the crus), the cheaper it is, the lighter it is! Blackcurrant, raspberry, woody (by the barrel). Chicken, red meat, fish (Giennois hillsides, sancerre).
Cabernet Franc: Light with earthy notes. A little rustic wines. Blackcurrant, moss, pepper. Delicatessen, strong cheeses.
Merlot: Cherry, blackberry, violet. thicker in the mouth, more concentrated and warmer. Grilled meat, barbecue, aperitif dinner, pizza.
Grenache noir: The level above the Merlot. Gives fruit to Syrah wines. Maybe a little alcoholic. Fig and nutmeg
Syrah: Fresh pepper, nutmeg, cloves, blackberries, jam. Powerful but elegant
Cabernet Sauvignon: Tannic in its youth, blackcurrant, raspberry, fern, pepper.
Sauvignon: Citrus fruits, white flowers (jasmine, elder). Fairly dry and fragrant wine
Chardonnay: Lemon, lime, apple, fresh almond. The further north the wine is made, the drier and fresher it will be. Further south, it will be generous and ample. (Chameleon grape variety)
Chenin: Quince, mango, pineapple, pear. From very dry to very sweet. It’s usually written for the soft ones. Superb for a glass of white for the picnics of the first beautiful days. Fish love it! A soap dish will be ideal for seafood platters.
Viognier: Apricot, peach, pear. Quite fruity but dry, most of the time. Quite close to the chenin. Works very well on fatter fish (salmon, trout)
Muscadet: Dry and light. Lemon, iodine (for the most maritime), flint, green apple. Ideal for oysters and seafood
Riesling: Lemon confit, bergamot, quince, mirabelle plum. Dry to very dry. Exists in late harvest but it is always mentioned on the label. Sauerkraut of course, but superb for fish gratins, vegetarian dishes…
YOU’RE NOT GAMBLING YOUR LIFE!
Take risks! Experiment! The best way to make a success of your agreements is to deceive you. Even a wine merchant or an oenologist is wrong but it is because he likes to be wrong that he becomes better. These are trades of apprenticeship and experience. Feel free to write in a notebook or in your phone your impressions on the chords you make as well as the impressions of your guests, if they dare to give them to you. And once again, go to your local wine store for advice. The more you understand how food and wine pairings work, the more you will want to prepare more elaborate dishes. A wine merchant is often also your best recipe book!
PS: Pairings are not only made with wines but it is for a next episode.
See you soon,
Corentin – DesVinsaVous