Wine and Food Pairings to Avoid

At The Wine Rack

with Christopher Reckord

Thursday, September 27, 2018

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There are times that I can't help but share my opinion when a wine pairing disappoints.

From discussions in the hospitality industry locally, I do realise that it is a highly subjective area, and not everyone puts effort into understanding pairings and some don't even care about doing it. But we should always remember that enhancing the customer's gastronomy experience should be our goal. At a recent wine-tasting session attendees had wide-ranging discussions on wine, including food pairings that work and, importantly, pairings that don't. While I do understand that many people have different tastes in food and wine, I believe that there are some general pairings that are more challenging than others.

Sweet and Spicy Foods

The impact of food on wine is almost entirely determined by the balance of primary tastes in the food: sweet, sour, salty, umami and bitter. In general, sweetness in a dish can make a dry wine seem to lose its fruit and be acidic, thin, bitter, sour and unpleasant. While chefs and sommeliers worldwide like to experiment, some of the pairings we discussed as bad include:

Chocolate and Champagne Brut: Dark chocolate is less sweet and more bitter, milk chocolate is sweeter and more mouth-coating as a rule, and white chocolate is sweet and buttery. This pairing experience will depend on a number of factors including the level of sugar; suffice to say chocolate has a tendency to turn wines, including Champagne, thin and acidic.

Chocolate Cake and Red Wine: In general, sweeter-style desserts will make dry wines (red or white) more bitter and acidic, some even describe the wine of tasting “harder”. Many chefs attempt this pairing but place additional items on the plate in an attempt to do some amount of flavour balancing.

Spicy Jamaican and Asian Dishes with Dry Wines: Spicy, peppery foods generally make dry wines taste more astringent. Slightly sweet or off-dry wines will work well with dishes that are just a little 'hot'.

Most wines and foods generally work well together, as outlined above. The real issues pop up when dishes with peppery spices and higher levels of sugar get into the mix.

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